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THE EROTIC MOTIVE 
IN LITERATURE 



THEEROTIC MOTIVE 
IN LITERATURE 



BY 



ALBERT MORDELL 

AUTHOR OF "the SHIFTING OF LITERARY VALUES, 

"DANTE AND OTHER WANING CLASSICS," 

ETC. 




O^t of "/l^ ^ 



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BONI AND LIVERIGHT 
NewYork 1919 



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Copyright, 1919, 
By BONI & LIVERIGHT, INC. 



Printed in the U.S.A. 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I Introduction i 

II Eroticism IN Lite 20 

III Dreams and Literature .31 

IT The CEdipus Complex and the Brother and 

Sister Complex 51 

* T The Author Always UNCONsaousLY in His 

Work 63 

■fl Unconscious Consolatory Mechanisms in Au- 
thorship 83 

VII Projection, Villain Portrayals and Cynicism 

AS Work of the Unconscious 97 

VIII Genius as a Product of the Unconscious . . 107 
IX Literary Emotions AND the Neuroses . . .118 

X The Infantile Love Life of the Author and 

its Sltblimations 132 

XI Sexual Symbolism IN Literature . . . .150 

XII Cannibalism: The Atreus Legend . . . .172 

•> XIII Psychoanalysis AND Literary Criticism . .179 

XIV Keats' Personal Love Poems 199 

XV Shelley's Personal Love Poems 209 

XVI Psychoanalytic Study OF Edgar Allan PoE . 220 

XVII The Ideas of Lafcadio Hearn 237 

XVIII Conclusion 244 



V 



393848 



■M- 



CHAPTER I 

INTRODUCTION 



This work is an endeavour to apply some of the meth- 
ods of psychoanalysis to literature. It attempts to read 
closely between the lines of an author's works. It ap- 
plies some principles in interpreting literature with a 
scrutiny hitiherto scarcely deemed permissible. Only 
such suggestions have been set down whose application 
has been rendered fairly unimpeachable by science and 
experience. 

In studying literature thus, I aim to trace a writer's 
books back to the outward and inner events of his life 
and to reveal his unconscious, or that part of his psychic 
life of which he is unaware. I try to show that un- 
suspected emotions of the writer have entered into his 
literary productions, that events he had apparently for- 
gotten have guided his pen. In every book there is 
much of the author's unconscious which can be dis- 
covered by the critic and psychologist who apply a few 
and well tested and infallible principles. 

This unconscious is largely identical with the mental 
love fantasies in our present and past life. Since the 
terms "unconscious" and "erotic" are almost synony- \ 
mous, any serious study of literature which is concerned 



,^ : ^ .OJH?. EIROTJC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

with the unconscious niust deal impartially with erot- 
icism. 

Every author reveals more than he intended. Works 
of the imagination open up to the reader hidden vistas 
in man's inner life just as dreams do. As the psycho- 
analyst recognises that dreams are the realised repressed 
wishes of the unconscious, so the critic discovers in 
literary performances ideal pictures inspired by past 
repressions in the authors' lives. And just as anxiety- 
dreams spring largely from the anxieties of waking life, 
so literature describing human sorrows in general takes 
its cue from the personal griefs of the author. 

A literary work is no longer regarded as a sort of 
objective product unrelated to its creator, written only 
by compliance with certain rules. It is a personal ex- 
pression and represents the whole man behind it. His 
present and past have gone into the making of it and 
it records his secret aspirations and most intimate feel- 
ings; it is the outcropping of his struggles and disap- 
pointments. It is the outlet of his emotions, freely flow^ 
ing forth even though he has sought to stem their flux. 
It dates from his apparently forgotten infantile life. 

We know that a man's reading, his early education, 
his contact with the world, the fortunes and vicissitudes 
of his life, have all combined to influence his artistic 
work. We have learned that hereditary influences, the 
nature of his relations to his parents, his infantile re- 
pressions, his youthful love affairs, his daily occupa- 
tions, his physical powers or failings, enter into the 
colouring and directing of his ideas and emotions, and will 
stamp any artistic product that he may undertake. 
\ Thus with a man's literary work before us and with a 
/ few clues, we are able to reconstruct his emotional and 
intellectual Hfe, and guess with reasonable certainty at 



INTRODUCTION 3 

many of the events in his career. George Brandes has 
been able to build up a life of Shakespeare almost from 
the plays alone. As he said, if we have about forty- 
five works by a writer, and we still cannot find out much 
about his life, it must be our own fault. 

Again we may deduce what kind of literary work 
would have been the result if there are given to us not 
only the hereditary antecedents and biographical data 
of an author, but a full account of his day dreams, ambi- 
tions, frailties, disillusionments, of his favourite reading, 
intellectual influences, love affairs and relations to his 
parents, relatives and friends. I do not think it would 
be difficult for us to deduce from the facts we have of 
Dante's life that he naturally would have given us a 
work of the nature of the Divine Comedy. 

Literature is a personal voice the source of which can 
be traced to the unconscious. 

But an author draws not only on the past in his own 
life, but on the past psychic history of the human family. 
Unconscious race memories are revived by him in his 
writing; his productions are influenced by most primi- 
tive ideas and emotions, though he may not be aware 
what they are. Yet they emerge from his pen; for 
the methods of thought and ways of feeling of our early 
ancestors still rule us. Nor is the idea of unconscious 
race memories idle speculation or fanciful theorising. 
Just as surely as we carry in ourselves the physical marks 
of our forefathers of which each individual has millions, 
so undoubtedly we must have inherited their mental 
and emotional characteristics. The manner and nature 
of the lives of those who preceded us have never been 
entirely eliminated from our unconscious. We have even 
the most bestial instincts in a rudimentary stage, and 
these are revived, to our surprise, not only in our dreams 



4 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

but in our waking thoughts and also occasionally in 
our conduct. We carry the whole world's past under 
our skins. And there is a sediment of that primitive 
life in many of our books, without the author being 
aware of the fact. 

Thus a deterministic influence prevails in literature. 
A book is not an accident. The nature of its con- 
tents depends not only on hereditary influences, nor, 
as Taine thought, on climate, country and environment, 
alone, but on the nature of the repressions the author's 
emotions have experienced. The impulses that created 
it are largely unconscious, and the only conscious traces 
in it are those in the art of composition. Hence the 
ancient idea of poetic inspiration cannot be relegated 
to limbo, for it plays a decided part in determining the 
psychical features of the work. Inspiration finds its ma- 
terial in the unconscious. When the writer is inspired, 
he is eager to express ideas and feelings that have been 
formed by some event, though he cannot trace their ori- 
gin, for he speaks out of the soul of a buried humanity. 

There is no form or species of literature that may 
not be interpreted by psychoanalytic methods. Be the 
author ever so objective, no matter how much he has 
sought to make his personality intangible and elusive, 
there are means, with the aid of clues, of opening up 
the barred gates of his soul. Men Hke Flaubert and 
Merimee, who believed in the impersonal and objective 
theory of art and who strove deliberately to conceal their 
personalities, failed in doing so. Their presence is re- 
vealed in their stories; they could not hold themselves 
aloof. It is true we have been aided by external evi- 
dence in learning what methods they employed to ren- 
der themselves impersonal; the real Merimee and Flau- 
bert, however, were made to emerge by the help of their 



I 



INTRODUCTION 5 

published personal letters. It matters not whether the 
author writes realistic or romantic fiction, autobiograph- 
ical or historical tales, lyric or epic poems, dramas or 
essays, his unconscious is there, in some degree. 

But in a field which is largely new, it is best to take 
those works or species of writing where the existence of 
the unconscious does not elude our efforts to detect it. 
Therefore, much will be said in this volume of works 
where there is no question that the author is talking from 
his own experiences, in his own person, or where he is 
using some character as a vehicle for his own fK)int of 
view. Such works include lyric poetry which is usually 
the personal expression of the love emotions of the 
singer. Burns, Byron, Shelley, Keats and Swinburne 
have left us records of their love affairs in their great 
lyric poems. Most of these were inspired by frustration 
of love, and were the results of actual experiences. And 
though much is said in them, other facts may be deduced. 

It is also a fact that nearly every great novelist has 
given us an intimate though disguised account of him- 
self in at least one novel (note David Cop per field and 
Pendennis as examples), while other writers have drawn 
themselves in almost every character they portrayed, 
Goethe and Byron being two instances. An author gives 
us the best insight into himself when he speaks frankly 
in his own person. His records are then intensely in- 
teresting and informative about his unconscious. But 
even if the author identifies himself with a fictitious 
character he speaks hardly less firmly. 



n 

Very important is the consideration of some of the 
literature where authentic dreams or dreams having the 



6 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

appearance of authenticity have been recorded. The 
connection between poetry and dreams has often been 
noted. The poet projects an ideal and imaginary world 
just as the dreamer does. He builds Utopias and para- 
dises and celestial cities. He sees visions and constructs 
allegories. I have interpreted", according to the methods 
of Freud, some dream literature like Kipling's Brush- 
wood Boy and Gautier's Arria Marcella. These tales 
prove most astoundingly the correctness of Freud's 
theories about dreams being the fulfilment in our sleep 
of unconscious wishes of our daily life. 

A literary production, even if no dream is recorded 
therein, is still a dream; that of the author. It rep- 
resents the fulfilment of his unconscious wishes, or 
registers a complaint because they are not fulfilled. Like 
the dream, it is formed of remnants of the past psychic 
life of the author, and is coloured by recent events and 
images. Freud in interpreting the dreams of his neuro- 
tic patients, learns the substance, the manifest content 
of the dream, as he calls it, and inquires about the events 
of the preceding days and he evokes all the associations 
which occur to the patients. He learns something of 
their lives and finally after a course of psychoanalytic 
treatment frequently cures them of their neuroses by 
making them aware of the unconscious repressions or 
fixations from which they suffer. These are removed 
and the resistances are broken down. As critics, we 
may interpret a book in the same way. A literary work 
stands in the same relation to the author as the 
dream to the patient. The writer has, however, cured 
himself of his emotional anxiety by giving vent to his feel- 
ings in his book. He has been his own doctor. The 
critic may see how this has been accomplished and point 
out the unconscious elements that the writer has brought 



INTRODUCTION 7 

forth in his book out of his own soul. The critic, not 
being able, like the physician and his patient, to ques- 
tion the author in person, must avail himself, in addition 
to the internal evidence of the literary product itself, of 
all the data that have been collected from the author's, 
confessions and letters, from the accounts of friends, 
etc. After having studied these in connection with the 
writing in question, he learns the author's unconscious. 
Shelley's Epipsychidion, for instance, is an autobiograph- 
ical poem, Shelley's dream of love, and can be fully fol- 
lowed only when the reader has acquainted himself with 
the history of Shelley's marriages and love affairs. 

I have interpreted a dream of Stevenson recorded in 
his A Chapter on Dreams, and have found in it a full 
confirmation of the Freudian theory of dreams. Steven- 
son, recounting at length a dream of his own, tells us 
unwittingly more about the misunderstanding that ex- 
isted between him and his father and the difficulties 
he encountered before he married (since the object of 
his affection was separated but not yet divorced from 
her first husband) than his biography does. When the 
essay and the biography are taken together, we see the 
testimony before us as to why Stevenson dreamed this 
dream. 

William Cowper's poem on the receipt of his mother's 
picture is a remarkable document in support of one of 
the tenets that are among the pillars of Freud's system, 
the theory of the (Edipus Complex. As is well known, 
Freud traced the nucleus of the psychoneuroses to an 
overattachment that the patient had for the parent of 
the opposite sex, a fixation which was very strong in 
infancy but from the influence of which there had never 
been a healthy liberation. This fixation which is often 



8 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

unconscious plants the seeds of future neuroses. The 
victim's entire life, even his love affairs, are interfered 
with by this attachment. Any one who knows his Freud 
and has read Cowper's poem can see in it the cause of 
most of the latter's unhappiness and most likely his 
insanity. His mother died when he was a child, and 
many years later he was writing to her, almost with 
passion. 

Both Stevenson's essay and Cowper's poem are self- 
explanatory to the disciple of Freud. If we had known 
nothing about the authors' lives, we would have seen 
beyond doubt that in the one case there was in actual 
life a hostility to the father, revealed by the dreamer's 
murdering him; and in the other case we would have 
known that a hysterical overattachment to the mother 
existed and that the writer's life would have been neu- 
rotic and that he might possibly experience an attach- 
ment to some older woman who replaced the mother. 

Further, just as there are typical dreams from which 
alone the psychoanalyst can judge the wishes of his 
subject without asking him any questions about him- 
self, so there are literary compositions wherefrom we 
can learn much of the author's unconscious, without 
probing into the facts of his life. Typical dreams in 
which certain objects like serpents or boxes appear, or 
in which the dreamer is represented as flying, swimming 
or climbing, have a sexual significance. Freud has shown 
this after having investigated thousands of such dreams 
and noted the symbolic language and customs of our 
ancestors. Literary works also speak per se for the au- 
thor when they abound in similar symbolical images. 



INTRODUCTION 



m 



We now come to another species of literature that is 
important for the psychoanalytic critic. This is a class 
of writing which delineates primaeval and immoral emo- 
tions. It often shows us the conflicts between savage 
emotions still lurking in man, and the demands of civili- 
sation. Either force may triumph, but the real interest 
of these works is that they show the old cave dweller 
is not yet dead within us, and that civilisation is achieved 
gradually by suppressing these old emotions; sometimes 
these needs are strong and must not be extirpated too 
suddenly; in fact in some specific cases must be granted 
satisfaction. Among some of the interesting books in 
recent years have been tales where primitive emotions 
have been depicted as conquering their victims. Note 
Conrad's Heart of Darkness, where it is shown how the 
old barbarian instincts and the cry of the forest are part 
of us and may be revived in us. Jack London's Call of 
the Wild is an interesting allegory on the subject. It is 
well known that we are descended from forbears who 
were wilder than the most savage tribes of to-day. Nat- 
urally some of the emotions they felt are not altogether 
extinct in us. Civilisation is after all but a veneer and 
slight causes may stir up brutal sensations in many peo- 
ple. They are still in our unconscious and form for the 
literary man very fascinating though often dangerous 
material. Shakespeare understood this when he drew 
Caliban. 

Poe once said that no writer would dare to write 
truly all his inner thoughts and feelings, for the very 
paper would burn beneath them. What he meant was 
that all writers, even the bravest, suppress those un- 



10 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

conscious elements in their nature that are related to 
immorality, indecency, degeneracy, morbidity and cruel- 
ty. It may not be advisable for writers continually to 
remind the reader of the remnant echoes and memories 
of our primitive state, which have fortunately been 
made quiescent but not been completely exterminated by 
culture. In the confessions of criminals, in the patho- 
logical disclosures of sexually aberrated people given to 
physicians, in the records of atrocities committed in 
time of war, we have illustrations of the atavisms of our 
day. Often a diseased Hterary man ventures far in 
baring his soul and we get the morbid and immoral ma- 
terial that provides food for the unhealthy. 

As a rule the author's sense of propriety and prudence 
act as a censor for him and hedge in his dormant sav- 
age feelings, so as not to allow them to find a direct 
voice in his art. Yet we can often pierce through the 
veil and observe exactly where the censor has been 
invoked and guess fairly accurately what has been 
suppressed. 

Some authors who relax the censorship voluntarily and 
appear to be without a sense of shame, give us some 
of the immoral literature which the world publicly ab- 
hors, but which individuals often delight in reading in 
private. I do not refer to the really great literature 
which has been stamped "immoral" by prudish people, 
because its ideas are too far advanced for them to ap- 
preciate, and are different from the conventional morals 
of society. I do not refer to the hundreds of great 
works which give us true accounts of the natural man, 
books whose irresistibility cannot be evaded except by 
hypocrites. I do not include novels and plays wherein 
the authors have realised that we are ^xertin g too great 
a sacrifice upon^our emotions and that many souls are 



INTRODUCTION ii 

starved by lack of normal gratification on account of 
the harsh exactions of conventional society. But there 
is a real immoral (or rather indecent) literature where 
the author allows his savage instincts to come to the 
surface and trespass on those aspects of his personality 
which civilisation should have tamed. He may suffer 
from the vice of exhibitionism and think he is frank, 
when he is merely showing he has no sense of shame; 
and he may cater to a market merely for money, in 
which case he acts like a mercenary harlot. He may try 
to gratify himself by sexual abandon in art because he 
has never had the craving for love satisfied in Hfe. He 
gives vent to instincts that are still ruling him because 
of his own atavistic or neurotic state. Psychoanalytic 
literature puts in a new light immoral literature, which 
hitherto has been dealt with from a moral, and not a 
psychological, point of view. This literature should be 
explained and its sources traced; these will be found in 
the infantile love life of the authors. Such writings 
should not be condemned offhand just because they stir 
our moral indignation. They must be interpreted so that 
we may learn the nature of their authors. 

I have also made a study of so repulsive a feature in 
the lives of our earliest ancestors as cannibalism. It 
is one of the most primitive emgtioEigi, The discoveries ^>^* 

of archaeologists show that cannibalism prevailed in Eu- 
rope before the dawn of history; Greek plays show its 
early existence in Greece; and we know that it still pre- 
vails among' savage tribes to-day. 

Many of the views here presented will be strange and 
novel to those unacquainted with or hostile to Freud's 
theories, or to those who wish to ignore the fact of the 
existence of primitive emotions in man. The ideas ad- 
vanced here will displease the puritanical opponents of 



12 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

scientific research. But it should be borne in mind that 
a study of the unconscious must necessarily deal with 
much that is obnoxious in human nature.* A study of 
this unpleasant element leads to the attainment of a 
more natural and moral life. But we should also re- 
member that the unconscious, besides containing the 
seeds of crime and immorality, also is the soil of all 
those finer emotions that the church and the state cher- 
ish. Conscience, self-sacrifice, moral sense, love, are 
unconscious sentiments. 

I should have liked to treat of the literature of me- 
tempsychosis. In this literature where people are de- 
picted as remembering past existences, as in Kipling's 
tale. The Finest Story in the World, George Sand's Coiv- 
suelo, and Jack London's The Star Rover, there may be 
possible avenues to race memories. Needless to say, I 
do not believe in the transmigration of the individual 
soul as some of the Greeks and early Christians did. But 
the Buddhistic conception of metempsychosis with its 
doctrine of the Karma, the scientific theory of heredity, 
and the conception of psychoanalysis are all dominated 
by a similar idea; this is, that the manners of feeling 
and thinking of our progenitors are exercised by us. 
We carry their souls, not the individual, but the col- 
lective ones; we are the products of their sins and vir- 
tues; we have all the idiosyncrasies, mental make up, 
emotional tendencies, that they had; we have stamped 
on us our race, our nation, our religion. We cannot 
remember isolated events of past ages, but the effects 

* The reader should also remember that such fearsome 
words as (i) "sex," (2) "incest," (3) "homosexualism," 
(4) "sadism," etc., include in psychoanalysis (i) love, (2) 
great affection between mother and son, father and daughter, 
brother and sister, (3) intense friendship, (4) cruelty, etc., 
respectively. 



INTRODUCTION 13 

of happenings then are registered in our nervous system. 
No one has done more than Hearn to show this, and he 
is, both because of his life and work, one of the fittest 
subjects for psychoanalytic study. The only possible 
rival he has is Edgar Allan Poe. 

If any one wishes to see an adroit application of the 
method of reading between the lines in a poem, let him 
read Lafcadio Hearn's interpretation of Browning's poem 
A Light Woman in the Appreciations of Poetry. Hearn 
had probably never heard of Freud, but in his lecture to 
his class, he showed that the unconscious of the author 
and the character could be discovered by probing care- 
fully into the literary work. Hearn tells in prose Brown- 
ing's story of the young man who claimed that he stole 
his friend's mistress to save him, and on tiring of her 
pretended he had never loved her. Hearn shrewdly 
observes: 

"Does any man in this world ever tell the exact truth 
about himself? Probably not. No man understands 
himself so well as to be able to tell the exact truth about 
himself. It is possible that this man believes himself to 
be speaking truthfully, but he certainly is telling a lie, 
a half truth only. We have his exact words, but the 
exact language of the speaker in any one of Browning's 
monologues does not tell the truth, it only suggests the 
truth. We must find out the real character of the 
person, and the real facts of the case, from our own 
experience of human nature." 

Psychoanalysis was applied to literature long before 
Freud. When biographers recounted all the influences 
of an author's life upon his works, or probed deeply into 
the real meaning of his views, they gave us psychoana- 
lytic criticism. Great literary critics like Sainte-Beuve, 
Taine and George Brandes traced the tendencies of au- 



14 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

thors' works to emotional crises in their lives. Critics 
who study the various ways in which authors have come 
to draw themselves or people they knew in their books, 
are psychoanalytic. When biographers and critics dilate 
especially on the relations existing between the writer 
and his mother, and trace the effects on the work of the 
author, they employ the psychoanalytic method. Any 
profound insight into human nature is psychoanalytic, 
and I find such insight in Swift, Johnson, Hazlitt and 
Lamb. 

It is, however, Freud who first gave complete applica- 
tion of that method to literature. He first touched on 
it in his masterpiece The Interpretation of Dreams in 
1900, when he saw the significance of the marriage of 
(Edipus to his mother in Sophocles's play (Edipus. He 
showed that it was a reminiscence of actual incestuous 
love that was practis^'ed far back in the ages of barbarism, 
and that the play shows horror as a reaction to such at- 
tachment to the mother. The first treatment of an 
aesthetic theme from the new point of psychoanalysis 
was made by Freud in his book on Wit and the Uncon^ 
sciotts in 1905. The first sole application of psycho- 
analysis to a work of literature was undertaken by him 
in connection with Jensen's novel Gradiva in 1907, 
where he shows the similarity between the emotions of 
the hero and the psychoneuroses. (The novel and 
Freud's essay have been both translated into English.)* 
Freud also studied Leonardo da Vinci and showed the 
influences of the artist's infantile love life upon his later 
career and work. Psychoanalytic methods have been 
applied to music, mythology, religion, philosophy, phil- 
ology and morals, and indeed to almost every sphere of 
mental activity. Many monographs have been published 

* Delusion and Dream. JMoffat, Yard & Co. 



INTRODUCTION 15 

by Freud's disciples, taking up the relations between an 
author and his work. Sadger studied the poets Lenau, 
Kleist, and F. K. Meyer and showed the power of in- 
fantile influence. On this side of the ocean little work 
has been done in this direction, but that little has been 
excellent. Professor Ernest Jones's study of the (Edip- 
us Complex in Hamlet (American Journal of Psychology, 
January, 1910), Dr. Isidor Coriat's account of the hys- 
teria of Lady Macbeth and Professor F. C. Prescott's 
scholarly essay on the relation between poetry and 
dreams (Journal of Abnormal Psychology, April, June, 
1912), are excellent pioneer works in psychoanalytical 
literary criticism.* 



IV 

Freud is a genius whose performances astonish one 
as do those of a wizard. His revolutions in psychology 
are no less important than those of Darwin in biology. 
After his discoveries, literary interpretation cannot re- 
main the same. The points of difference between Him 

♦There are in English but few articles applying psycho- 
analytic methods to writers and thinkers. Some of them are : 
Alfred Kuttner's "The Artist" in Seven Arts, Feb., 1917; 
Wilfrid Lay's "'John Barleycorn' Under Psychoanalysis," 
"H. G. Wells and His Mental Hinterland" and "The Mar- 
riage Ideas of H. G. Wells" in The Bookman (N. Y.), March, 
July and August, 1917, respectively ; A. R. Chandler's "Tragic 
Effects in Sophocles" in "The Monist" (1913) ; Vv^. J. Karpas's 
"Socrates in the Light of Modern Psychology" in The Journal 
of Abnormal Psychology, vol. 10, p. 185; and Phyllis Blan- 
chard's "Psychoanalytic Study of Comte" in the American 
Journal of Psychology, April, 1918. 

Two indispensable articles are the summaries by Rudolph 
Acher and by Lucille Dooley of "Psychoanalytic Studies of 
Geniuses," published in German. The reader should study 
these articles in the American Journal of Psychology for July, 
191 1, and July, 1916, respectively. 



1 6 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

and his disciples Jung and Adler need not be touched 
on here. My own sympathies are with Freud. 

The new method will help to explain the nature and 
origin of literary genius, though it is not pretended it 
will create it. Psychoanalysis will show us the direc- 
tion that literary genius takes and will explain why 
it proceeds in a particular path. It will give the reasons 
why one author writes books of a particular colour or 
tendency, why he entertains certain ideas. It explains 
why certain plots and characters are indulged in by 
particular authors. It claims to tell why Schopenhauer 
became a pessimist, why Wagner dealt with themes like 
the woman between two men. In fact studies of these 
artists, employing Freud's methods, have already been 
published. Graf and Rank each wrote about Wagner, 
and Hitschman has given us a monograph on Schopen- 
hauer. Similarly the critic of the future will ex- 
plain the fundamental tone of the works of writers who 
differ vastly from each other. We will see more clearly 
why Byron gave vent to his note of melancholy, Keats 
to his passion for beauty. Browning to his spirit of 
optimism, Strindberg to his misogyny. Swift to his 
misanthropy, Ibsen to his moral revolt, Tolstoi to his 
religious reaction, Thackeray to his cynicism, and Words- 
worth to his love for nature. 

The author is more in his work than he suspects. To 
illustrate: There is a theory of projection, in psychoa- 
nalysis, which explains to us that hysterical people lean 
with great eagerness for moral support or consolation 
on some actual person they love or admire. Often he 
is the clergyman or physician, at other times he is a 
friend or relative. The same thing occurs in literature. 
The writer who has certain theories clings for support to 
some characters in history or fiction. He projects his 



INTRODUCTION 17 

personality on theirs. If he writes a biography he 
chooses a type most like himself and is really writing his 
own life. Kenan's Life of Jesus is really a life of Renan 
and he makes Jesus have many qualities he himself 
had. I have compared Renan's autobiography to his 
Life of Jesus and shown the resemblance between Renan 
and the Jesus of his creation. 

An author also identifies himself with his characters 
and draws unconsciously on himself when he creates 
them. I have discovered a personal note in an epic 
like the Iliad, usually considered impersonal. I have 
deduced that the master passion of the author of the 
Achilles-Patroclus story was friendship, and that he sang 
a private sorrow in Achilles' grief for Patroclus. I have 
been aided in this by a dream of Achilles. 

Authors also often draw their villains from their un- 
conscious. They indulge in exaggeration, disguise and 
various other devices. Balzac's worst villain, the in- 
tellectual, unmoral Vautrin, is the Dr. Hyde of Balzac 
himself let loose in a fictitious character. And we know 
Byron was even accused of having committed the crimes 
of his villains. This, however, does not mean that the 
creator of vicious types himself may not be the purest 
person in his personal life. We must not conclude that 
actual events of a fictitious work have happened to the 
author himself. And this brings me to the real danger 
of a critical study of this kind. 

I have maintained a double guard over myself so as 
not to transcend the danger line. I have sought not 
to interpret as a portrait of the author's own life, his 
delineation of a character, when no reason warrants 
such a conclusion. It is absurd to conclude that isolated 
incidents in a novel happened in the writer's own life. It 
is only when a writer harps on one plot — one motive — 



i8 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

continually — and in several works, that one's suspicions 
are aroused that he is really writing about himself. 
It is only when there is a genuine ring to the cry of 
distress, that the reader suspects that the work is more 
than a mere literary exercise. The early readers of 
Heine, De Musset and Leopardi, saw that the poets were 
singing about real sorrows. No one ever doubted that 
Goethe, Ibsen and Tolstoi used fictitious characters as 
vehicles for their own ideas, and that Wilhelm Meister, 
Brand and Levine were really the authors themselves. 

No doubt, many literary men will be among the first to 
object to a theory of literary criticism which tends to 
reveal their personalities more closely to the public. They 
may claim that they are painfully careful to keep their 
own views and personalities from the public eyes. I 
do not think that anything derogatory to authors as a 
whole will result from psychoanalytic criticism. They 
should be the first to welcome this method. In fact 
the older writers gain by the process of psychoanalytic 
study. We become more liberal and admire them all 
the more. I can only speak from my own studies and 
say that my admiration for the personal character of 
men like Byron and Poe, the moral standing of whom 
has never been very high with the public, has increased 
since my studies of psychoanalysis, and my appreciation 
of their work has deepened. 

The reader's indulgent attention is invited to the 
pages where the effect upon literature of the sexual in- 
fantile life of the author i&v treated. This involves a 
resume of one of Freud's most important and most 
abused discoveries, that the child has a love life of its 
own, the development of which has most significant bear- 
ing upon his entire life. More particular indulgence is 
pleaded for the pages dealing with sex S3mibolism in 



INTRODUCTION 19 

literature. The critic who will find the author of this 
volume obsessed with sex will be more charitably in- 
clined if he first masters Freud's works or a good study 
and summary of them like Dr. Hitschman's Freud's 
Theories of the Neuroses^ Dr. Brill's Psychanaiysis, 
Pfister's The Psychoanalytic Method or Jones' Papers 
on Psychoanalysis. 

In conclusion, I quote a passage from William James 
to show the significance of the unconscious in modern 
psychology. 

"I cannot but think,'* says William James in his Vari^ 
eties of Religious Experience (1902), (P. 233), "that 
the most important step forward that has occurred in 
psychology since I have been a student of that science 
is the discovery, first made in 1886, that in certain ob- 
jects at least, there is not only the consciousness of the 
ordinary field, with its usual centre and margin, but an 
addition thereto in the shape of a set of memories, 
thoughts and feelings which are extra-marginal and out- 
side of the primary consciousness altogether, but yet 
must be classed as conscious facts of some sort, able 
to reveal their presence by unmistakable signs. I call 
this the most important step forward because, unlike 
the advances whidi psychology has made, this discovery 
has revealed to us an entirely unsuspected peculiarity ffl 
the constitution of human nature." 



CHAPTER II 

EROTICISM IN LIFE 



Psychology has in recent years investigated the 
unconscious day dreams which are now recognised as 
part of our imaginative life. No matter how religious or 
moral we may be, erotic fancies are always with us. 
This mental life has often been described in mediaeval 
literature in the accounts of sensuous visions which 
tempted saints. The authors who aimed at inculcating 
moral and religious lessons thus gave vent to their own 
erotic fancies in the alluring and enticing verbal pictures 
they drew. Many instances thus appear in puritanical 
and ascetic literature, of immorality and exhibitionism. 

We are learning to deal directly with a phase of our 
lives, whose influence upon our happiness can scarcely 
be overestimated. We must first admit the reality of 
the fantasies that occupy so much of our existence. Out 
of them bloom as a flower the emotions which are associ- 
ated with the noblest sentiments in human nature — love. 
How these fancies may be sublimated into higher pur- 
poses, like beautiful deeds and works of art, how they 
may be directed into the channels of love, how they 
may be partly gratified without impairing the finer in- 
stincts of man, are problems which are being made the 
subject of serious study. It is also being realised that 

20 



EROTICISM IN LIFE 21 

these fancies increase in vividness, number and variety 
where, for economic and conventional reasons, means of 
normal love life are cut off. It is also being admitted 
that much of the mental misery and physical debility 
of many people is due to the absurd asceticism forced 
upon us in sex matters by our modern civilisation. 

We must learn to discuss, in a sincere manner, the 
nature and tendencies of the erotic in our lives. Scien- 
tists have the privilege of speaking openly on the sub- 
ject; many literary men who have claimed the same free- 
dom have used it, however, to evolve pornographic works 
for commercial purposes. Yet no literary man to-day 
would be permitted to discuss sexual questions with the 
frankness of Montaigne in his essay "Upon Some Verses 
of Virgil." 

Let us examine the word "erotic" itself. Unfortu- 
nately it has assumed an unsavoury meaning, although it 
means "related to love" and is derived from the Greek 
work "eros" — love. It has been used to designate the 
perverse and the immoral in sex matters; it has been 
made synonymous with lust, abnormality, excess and 
every unpleasant feature in regard to sex matters. Pater 
once complained that he did not like the use of the word 
"hedonism" because of the misapprehension created in 
the minds of people who did not understand Greek. The 
same objection may be brought against the use of the 
word "eroticism." Properly speaking all love poetry is 
erotic poetry; in fact the greatness of poetry and litera- 
ture is its eroticism, for they are most true then to 
life, which is largely erotic. To call a great poet like 
Paul Verlaine erotic is a compliment, not a disparage- 
ment. Nor is he nearly as erotic as the author of The 
Song of Songs. Since there is no word in English to 
specify love interest in its widest sense, we must cling 



22 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

to the use of the words "erotic" and "eroticism." We 
should restore to the word "eroticism" its original and 
nobler meaning. 

Any literary work that lays an emphasis on the part 
played by love in our lives is erotic. Literature could 
not exist without dwelling on the love interest. The 
stories of Jacob and Rachel, of Ruth, and of David and 
Uriah's wife, are all beautiful examples of eroticism in 
the Bible. 

Man is averse to admitting certain facts about his 
mental love life. People are often shocked by the im- 
morality of the dreams which reveal their unconscious 
lives. A man, however, will often confess in intimate 
circles the existence of sensuous fancies within himself. 
People show indications in many ways ^of the parts 
played by the love and sex interests in their mental 
lives. Some witness suggestive plays; others indulge in 
telling and hearing lewd jests, indecent witticisms and 
improper stories. Any one who has listened to the con- 
versation of men in the club or smoker, in the factory or 
office, in the bar-room or sitting room, cannot be blind 
to the fact that the erotic interests rule us far more than 
we wish to admit. He who thinks that the wealthy are 
too much absorbed in accumulating more riches and the 
poor too much worn out by the struggle for existence, 
to be occupied with erotic fancies, is mistaken. A day 
spent in a factory or an evening at a club will show one 
that the millionaire and the pauper are brothers under 
their skins. 

Man's nature is erotic to its very foundations; he 
was erotic, in infancy, in his own 'way; he carries with- 
in him all the erotic instincts of millions of ancestors for 
thousands of years back. His eroticism extends to many 
sensitive areas of his body like his lips, the palms of 



EROTICISM IN LIFE 23 

his hands, his chest and back. Eroticism often is hid- 
den in an interest in many subjects which are apparent- 
ly unrelated to it, an interest which is a compensation 
to one for his lack of love. Man's first real combined 
physical and spiritual suffering commences at puberty 
when he hears new and strange voices in his soul calling 
for a reply to which there is no answer. He discovers 
that society is so constituted that he must spend his 
youth, when the passions are at their height, in un- 
naturally curbing or misdirecting them. He often dis- 
covers later that even marriage is not a full satisfaction 
for his love instincts. 

Though man has refused to concede the importance 
that the erotic has played in his life, his fellow men 
who were poets spoke for him. They did not conceal the 
truth, for the words in which their emotions were couched 
betrayed them. Often the people persecuted their spokes- 
man for uttering the truth, though they delighted in se- 
cretly reading his books. 

The "purisf" to-day is often the one who revels (in 
private) most in obscene literature; while many people 
find in such literature the only means they have of in- 
dulging their ungratified love life. Many book-sellers 
make a specialty of furnishing pornographic books and 
pictures to many roues and celibates. 

The mere interest, however, in a virile and unhypo- 
critical literary work like a novel by Fielding or Smollett, 
does not indicate abnormal eroticism in the reader. In 
fact, it is often a sign of some unhealthy tendency or 
starvation in human nature when a person shrinks from 
honest and frank literature. The school-boy or college 
student who reads in stealth De Foe's novel Roxana, 
instead of Robinson Crusoe, who turns from his Greek 
version of Aristophanes to the translation of Lysistrata, 



24 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

or who wearies of Chaucer's Prologue to the Canter- 
bury Tales and tries to read in spite of the old English 
"The Miller's Tale" or "The Reeve's Tale," is not an 
immoral youngster. The reader who not having read 
these works may look them up (now that they have been 
mentioned) is not therefore an indecent or abnormal 
person. The school-boy's as well as the reader's inter- 
est is each additional proof of the erotic in us. 

The real lover of literature who has read most of the 
Latin poets, English dramatists and French novels is soon 
in the position where the "erotic" portions do not assume 
for him the vast importance they have for the reader who 
merely hunts them out and takes no interest in any other 
passages but these. 

Bayle, whose Dictionary abounds in many risque 
stories, defended himself in an excellent essay called 
"Explanation Concerning Obscenities." He said there 
very aptly: 

"If any one was so great a lover of purity, as to wish 
not only that no immodest desire should arise in his 
mind, but also that his imagination should be constantly 
free from every obscene idea, he could not attain his 
end without losing his eyes and his ears, and the re- 
membrance of many things which he could not choose 
but see and hear. Such a perfection could not be hoped 
for, whilst we see men and beasts, and know the signi- 
ficance of certain words that make a necessary part of 
our language. It is not in our power to have, or not to 
have, certain ideas, when certain objects strike our 
senses; they are imprinted in our imagination whether 
we will or not. Chastity is not endangered by them, 
provided we don't grow fond of them." 



EROTICISM IN LIFE 25 



Men may be engaged in philanthropic or political 
movements; they may love their work intensely; they 
may be consummating an ambition; they may make sac- 
rifices in performing their duties; but withal their minds 
are pondering on some particular woman, or on women 
in general. We hold imaginary conversations with women 
we have known, whom we know, or whom we would 
like to know. We think about the feminine faces we 
meet in the streets, and experience a passing melancholy 
because we are unacquainted with some of the girls 
we see. Undue interest in the opposite sex is of course 
also characteristic of women. They adorn their persons 
and choose their styles in dress with the object of physi- 
cally attracting the male. 

Those who are unhappy in love or marriage do not 
find themselves compensated for their misfortune by the 
fact that they may possess great wealth, or have a name 
that is respected or crowned with glory. The careers of 
Lord Nelson and Parnell show that national saviours and 
leaders may be engulfed in a grand passion whose for- 
tunate outcome may be to them possibly as momentous 
as the welfare of their country. The fact that Anthony 
was a general on whose move the saving of his country 
depended, did not make him the less interested in 
Cleopatra. The fact that Abelard was a philosopher did 
not make him hold his studies higher than he did 
Heloise. There was really nothing abnormal about these 
men. Modern writers have been attracted to them. 
Shakespeare chose Anthony as the hero of his play, and 
Pope's famous Epistle shows his interest in Abelard. The 



26 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

amorous adventures of great military leaders like Caesar 
and Napoleon are well known. 

The love affairs of many literary men make us almost 
conclude that they were more concerned about their 
loves than their art. Recall Stendhal's famous cry 
about his perishing for want of love or Balzac's eternal 
ambition to be famous and to be loved. Goethe once 
exclaimed that the only person who was happy was he 
who was fortunate in his domestic affairs. He made 
every one of his love affairs the basis of some poem, novel 
or play; and not to know anything about his love for 
Charlotte Buff, or Frederica or Lili, or Frau von Stein, 
is to limit oneself in being able to appreciate Goethe, in 
being able to understand Werther, Faust, WUhelm Meis- 
ter and other works by him. 

And we love these poets and writers who naively con- 
fessed that they did not care for aught in life but love, 
and who sang of their troubles frankly. Who does not 
find Catullus and Tibullus sweet? Who that has read 
them does not cherish the lyrical cries of the Troubadours 
or the poems of the Chinese poets of the T'ang period? 
Can any one help thinking of Burns or De Musset with- 
out affection and sympathy? And there are many who 
would not surrender the great body of sonnets and 
lyrics of England's poets for her colonies. And why is 
this? Because these poets are ourselves speaking for 
us and saying what we feel but are unable to express. 
The cry of the mediaeval Persian or Japanese poet is our 
own cry. His joy is ours and he is we and we are he. 
Once a poem has left its author's pen it is no longer 
a mere personal record, but becomes an enduring monu- 
ment of art in which millions of men discern a grief or 
gladness that they too have known. In a measure, 
literature is more real and eternal than life itself. It 



EROTICISM IN LIFE 27 

makes the past live and it holds a soul that can sway 
millions of people for ever and ever. As Cicero said in 
his speech for Archias the poet: "If the Iliad had not 
existed, the same tomb which covered Achilles' body 
would also have buried his renown." 



m 

A comprehension of the erotic in ourselves will help 
us discern many false ideals connected with the treat- 
ment of love in literature. I refer especially to the ideal 
of a first and only love (regarded by the lover usually 
as Platonic) which has been spread by deceptive authors 
and which has produced much affectation and insincerity 
in literature. 

In real life people do not generally marry their first 
loves; they often cherish contempt for persons once 
loved ; they do not as a rule go through life always claim- 
ing that they loved once and that they would never love 
again. On the contrary, they usually marry and settle 
down and forget about their early affairs, although in 
most cases these have lasting influence. 

If poets, however, were to speak in a prosaic manner 
of their early loves, their works would be less admired. 
The public loves loyalty and hence it encourages love 
literature that is over-sentimental and false. No doubt 
when a man contracts an unhappy marriage or does 
not succeed in winning love later in life he looks back 
upon an early love affair with tenderness. And while 
it is true that the past always rules us we are often sat- 
isfied as to the manner in which it shaped our futures. 
Robert Browning had an early sad love affair which 
influenced his Patdine and indeed many of his later 
lyrics, but he was happy in the love of the poetess Eliza- 



2 8 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

beth Barrett. Mark Twain's married life was ideal and 
happy, in spite of an early love affair of his which ended 
because of the accidental non-delivery of a letter. On 
the other hand Byron, who was unhappily married, 
cherished the love of his early sweetheart Mary Cha- 
worth for over twenty years. Strangely and unjustly 
enough he has been accused of insincerity and posing, 
and most critics refuse to admit that many of his later 
love poems were written to her. 

There are two conspicuous instances in literature 
where a poet's love was thought by himself to have 
lasted for life, the cases of Dante and Petrarch. If the 
loves of these Italians for their mistresses are strictly 
investigated, I think it will be discovered that they have 
hoodwinked the world about their loves. They wrote 
their best poems about their beloved ones, after these 
had died, and death often makes a man unwittingly 
write falsely about the past. Pfister tells us in his 
Psychoanalytic Method of a diseased man of fifty who 
lived apart from his wife in the same house, and who 
treated her brutally. After her death he always insisted 
that they were an ideal couple. Pfister relates another 
story of a widower who recalled only the happy part of 
his unhappy married life, and thought he never could 
marry again. 

There has always been a suspicion among some people 
about the durability of the love felt by Dante and 
Petrarch, for Beatrice and Laura respectively. Symonds 
says of Laura: "Though we believe in the reality of 
Laura, we derive no clear conception either of her person 
or her character. She is not so much a woman as woman 
in the abstract. . . .The Canzoniere is therefore one 
long melodious monotony poured from the poet's soul. 



EROTICISM IN LIFE 29 

with the indefinite form of a beautiful woman seated in 
a lovely landscape." (Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 
XXI, P. 314-) 

Petrarch was twenty- three years old in 1327 when he 
met Laura. She died twenty-one years later. Petarch 
survived her twenty-six years, dying in 1374. Petrarch, 
it should be mentioned, had two illegitimate children bom 
by a mistress before Laura's death; they were later legiti- 
mised. The poet probably at times felt the pangs of 
disprised love to the extent that he claims he did in his 
sonnets; he may have experienced the grief he describes 
he suffered in his sonnets. But that he was in the con- 
stant throes of love for her for forty-seven years is doubt- 
ful. He probably was projecting that ideal of faithful 
love to please the public; he offered himself as the type 
of hero the public likes; a faithful, steadfast lover. It 
was this kind of ideal that made so great a genius like 
Thomas Hardy gratify the public taste by portraying 
so unswerving a lover as Gabriel Oak in Far From the 
Madding Crowd. 

The case of Dante is an even more noteworthy ex- 
ample of literary affectation and self-delusion. His love 
is the most astonishing in history. He and Beatrice 
were each only nine years old when he saw her. He 
probably saw her once after that. She died in 1290, 
when the poet was twenty-five years old. Great as 
Dante's sorrow was, it did not prevent him from marry- 
ing two years later. Dante makes Beatrice the heroine 
of his Divine Comedy, or at least of the Paradiso. His 
platonic affection for her is so unnatural that one feels 
he was doing what Petrarch did, unconsciously creat- 
ing an ideal and depicting as permanent an emotion, that 
had really brief sway. 



30 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

Although it is true that their past love affairs may 
have ruled them for life, neither Dante nor Petrarch 
were the faithful lovers they would have us believe they 
were. 



CHAPTER III 

DREAMS AND LITERATURE 



Freud discovered that dreams were the royal road 
to the unconscious, in that they portrayed our most dar- 
ing and immoral wishes as actually fulfilled. It is not 
necessary that we actually have those wishes in our 
waking life; it is sufficient if they merely intruded them- 
selves upon us against our wills sometime in the past. 
The dream will express our inmost thoughts. It will 
use symbolical language to let us still remain in the dark 
about our painful desires; but the psychoanalyst can 
learn what these are. As a result, when we have re- 
vealed to us what unconscious emotions are at the bot- 
tom of our nervous disturbances, we may be eased of 
them. 

Many writers on dreams, in the past, understood that 
they referred to events of our daily life, but the exact 
relation was not seen. The ancients were especially 
interested in the phenomena of dreams. Many ancient 
histories and fairy tales abound in narrations and in- 
terpretations of dreams. 

Modern literary men also have paid a great deal of 
attention to them. There are essays on dreams by 
Locke, Hobbes, Thomas Browne, Addison, Leigh Hunt, 
Dickens, Emerson and Lafcadio Hearn., H v^ t \\C * 

31 



32 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

One English writer who gave almost complete ex- 
pression to the views of Freud was William Hazlitt. In 
his essay "On Dreams" in The Plain Speaker, he stated 
the theory. It may come as a surprise to Freud — prob- 
ably as a greater surprise than when he learned that 
Schopenhauer had written about repression — to read Xht 
following passage: 

"There is a sort of profundity in sleep; it may be 
usefully consulted as an oracle in this way. It may be 
said that the voluntary power is suspended, and things 
come upon us as unexpected revelations, which we keep 
out of our thoughts at other times. We may be aware 
of a danger that we do not choose, while we have the 
full command of our faculties, to acknowledge to our- 
selves; the impending event will then appear to us as 
a dream and we shall most likely find it verified after- 
wards. Another thing of no small consequence is, that 
we may sometimes discover our tacit and almost un- 
conscious sentiments, with respect to persons or things 
in the same way. We are not hypocrites in our sleep. 
The curb is taken off from our passions and our imagi- 
nation wanders at will. When awake, we check these 
rising thoughts, and fancy we have them not. In dreams 
when we are off our guard, they return securely and 
unbidden. We make this use of the infirmity of our 
sleeping metamorphoses, that we may repress any feel- 
ings of this sort that we disapprove in their incipient 
state, and detect, ere it be too late, an unwarrantable 
antipathy or fatal passions. Infants cannot disguise 
their thoughts from others; and in sleep we reveal the 
secret to ourselves." [The italics are mine.] 

Freud's work may almost be called a commentary on 
this extraordinary passage of one of England's greatest 
critics. 



DREAMS AND LITERATURE 33 

Let us examine a few dreams, actual and artificial, 
in literature, and we will note that they show method 
in their madness, that they are ways of expressing the 
person's unconscious desires. 

In his astonishing essay, "A Chapter on Dreams," 
Stevenson has shown us how dreams influence author- 
ship. He tells us how the "Brownies," as he calls the 
powers that make the dreams, constructed his tales; 
however he often had to reject some of these stories 
because of their lack of morals. As we remarked above, 
wicked dreams are dreamt even by virtuous people, 
since the material is drawn from the psychic life of 
our infancy and primitive ancestors. Stevenson relates 
how his famous tale Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was sug- 
gested by a dream. 

Stevenson, in his essay, relates a dream wherein un- 
wittingly he lays bare much about some past experience 
in his life. He found it too immoral he says to make 
a tale of it. But he did immoral things in his dream; 
these were related to certain wishes in his waking hours. 
Those who are familiar with an episode in Stevenson's 
life, that relating to his marriage, and with Freud's the- 
ories, will find no difficulty in interpreting the dream and 
seeing how the dream and the events in his life which 
gave rise to it, tally with one another, when the Freudian 
method is applied. In fact the truth of Freud's views 
could be established alone by the interpretation applied 
to this dream. 

Stevenson dreamed that he was the son of a rich wick- 
ed man with a most damnable temper. He (the son) 
lived abroad to avoid his parent, but returned to Eng- 
land to find his father married again. They met and 
later in a quarrel the son, being insulted, struck the 
father dead. The step-mother lived in the same house 



34 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

with the son, who was afraid she detected his guilt. Later 
he discovered her near the scene of the murder with 
some evidence of his guilt. Yet they returned arm in 
arm home and she did not accuse him. Once he searched 
all her possessions for that evidence she had found of 
his guilt. She returned and he met her and asked her 
why she tortured him; "she knew he was no enemy to 
her." She fell upon her knees and cried that she loved 
him. Stevenson comments that it was not his tale but 
that of the little peoples, the brownies. Stevenson was 
mistaken; it was his tale. Everything that happened in 
that dream had a raison (Tetre, Let us see why he 
dreamt this immoral dream and interpret it in the light 
of its own facts and those his biographer relates. 

In early youth Stevenson was a free-thinker and had 
difficulties with his father. In 1876, at the age of twenty- 
six, he met his future wife, Mrs. Osbourne, who was not 
yet divorced from her husband. The elder Stevenson 
was opposed to the match. Robert Louis had travelled 
extensively; he went to France before he took his mem- 
orable trip to California to be near the object of his 
love. Mrs. Osbourne obtained a divorce and married 
Stevenson in 1880. Thus after four years of suffering 
and the removal of three great obstacles, the married 
state of his beloved, the objection of his father and fi- 
nancial troubles, the novelist was happily united to the 
woman he loved. Mrs. Osbourne's first husband re- 
married and Stevenson's father died in 1887. Stevenson 
and his father became reconciled, and on the latter's 
death, Stevenson was so shocked that he had many 
nightmares of which in all likelihood this dream was 
one. The essay containing the account of this dream 
was published in January, 1888, in Scribner's Magazine, 
and is included in the volume Across the Plains issued 



DREAMS AND LITERATURE 35 

in 1892. When the dream occurred I cannot say; it 
may have been between the date of his father's death 
on May 8, 1887, and the end of the year, by which time 
the essay had been written. It may have been dreamed 
even before the marriage in 1880, or thereafter while 
the elder Stevenson was alive. The interpretation is not 
affected. The state of mind, however, which gave birth 
to the dream is that in which he was before his wife was 
divorced and while his father was opposed to him. 

Two men were in the- way of Stevenson's marriage — 
his father and his loved one's husband, Mr. Osbourne. 
Stevenson wanted these men out of the way; they were 
the obstacles to his happiness. He wished that Mr. 
Osbourne were divorced and he entertained bitterness 
towards his father for showing such animosity to the 
match. Now we are not accusing Stevenson of a crime 
when we say that unconsciously the thought may have 
come to him if one or both of these men were dead 
his road to marriage would be easy. The dream of the 
murder of the father by the son is understood by all 
Freudians. It is not an uncommon one, especially 
where there is ill feeling between son and father, or 
where an over-attachment exists for the mother. It 
has its origin psychically in infancy when the father 
was looked upon as a rival of the infant in the affec- 
tions of the mother, and the dream is given additional 
grounds for its entry when the relations between father 
and son continue or grow strained. It represents just 
what it portrays, the wish of the child for the father 
to be out of the way, or dead. When the child wishes 
some one dead he means he wants him absent; he has 
no conception of death. The dream of murdering one's 
own father then is evidence of hostile feeling entertained 
by the dreamer to his father either in infancy, where it 



36 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

is always entertained, or later in life. It represents a 
wish of the unconscious fulfilled, the removal of an ob- 
stacle to happiness. Needless to say it does not rep- 
resent a conscious desire on the part of the dreamer in 
his waking hours to kill his father. 

We know how strained Stevenson's relations with his 
father were. The elder Stevenson was not sympathetic 
to his son's liberal ideas and later he opposed him in his 
lovemaking. Two more serious oppositions to a young 
man, one to the inclinations of his intellect and the 
other to his love, can not be imagined. The novelist 
never realised what the feature of the murder of his 
father in his dream meant, and how it arose. If in 
his dream his father appeared as rich and wicked with 
a damnable temper, that is what Stevenson really 
thought his father was. In the dream the son lived 
abroad to avoid the father, and this Stevenson also 
actually did in life, and as a result, by the way, we have 
some of his early books of travel, and I dare say if these 
were closely examined evidence of his strained relations 
with his father would appear. 

As we know, in dreams there is considerable distor- 
tion, and the person of our dream in an instant becomes 
another individual. This occurs in Stevenson's dream. 
No doubt the dreamer's father was actually made up of 
a combination of the elder Stevenson and Mr. Osbourne, 
both of whom Stevenson wished were out of the way. 
But a more important distortion takes place, the merging 
of the second wife of the dreamer's murdered father 
with the married woman in real life whom Stevenson 
loved. We recall that in the dream the dreamer lives 
with his father's second wife in the house after the 
murder, but there is a barrier between them, for the 
dreamer is haunted by the woman's possible knowledge 



DREAMS AND LITERATURE 37 

of his guilt. He loves her really and they return arm in 
arm from the scene of the murder. He did not want 
her to know that he had committed the murder because 
he wanted to marry her. He searched h er possessions 
for the evidence of the guilt she found and then bursts 
out asking why she tortures him, he is not an enemy 
of hers; that he really loves her, is implied. She also, 
it appears, had loved him and makes confession of the 
fact. No doubt this scene must be largely a picture of 
the proposal of Stevenson to his future wife. The situa- 
tion depicted showing the feeling of guilt the dreamer 
has for his murder may be traced to his own guilty 
thoughts in actual life on account of his unconscious 
wishes for both husband and father to be out of the 
way. These feelings appear in the remorse of the mur- 
derer and in his suspicion of discovery by the woman 
he loves. We might trace the dream to much earlier 
material in Stevenson's life if we knew all the facts. 
We do know that he had an earlier love affair in youth 
in which he was disappointed and that he has left us 
poems celebrating that episode. 

The dream concludes with the implication that the 
dreamer and the step-mother marry as they had con- 
fessed their love to one another; there are no longer any 
remorses or fears on one side or suspicions on the other, 
and the obstacles to the marriage, the objections of the 
dreamer's father, the legal ties of the husband to the 
beloved woman, have been removed. Stevenson wanted 
all this to happen in real life and kter it incidentally did 
turn out that way. Both his father and the husband of 
Mrs. Osbourne were removed as barriers, the former by 
acquiescence and forgiving, the latter by divorce. The 
dreamer represents as fulfilled his wish to marry Mrs. 
Osbourne, with all opposition removed. The dreamer's 



38 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

father is both the elder Stevenson and Mr. Osbourne, 
the father and the husband respectively, made one in the 
dream; the second wife of the father, step-mother of the 
dreamer, becomes Mrs. Osbourne, Stevenson's love who 
became a wife a second time. Thus we have had what 
Freud calls condensation and displacement in the dream. 
The dream sheds much light on the most important 
period of his life; it ftts in with the facts left us by 
the biographer. We see what his repressed wishes were 
in those days and how they appeared realised in his 
dream. 

n 

Freud first applied his theory of dream interpretation 
to fiction in 1907 in his study of Jensen's Gradiva 

(1903). 

Freud might have analysed Gautier's story ArrUi 
Marcella instead of Jensen's Gradiva, which was obvi- 
ously suggested by the plot of Gautier's tale. Arria 
Marcella appeared in 1852, over fifty years before Jen- 
sen's story. It gives one a good opportunity for study- 
ing Gautier himself and is an effective corroboration of 
Freud's theories on dreams. 

Octavius sees in a museum a piece of lava that had 
cooled over a woman's breast and preserved its form. 
He falls in love with the original woman, though he 
knows she is dead. He is a fetich worshipper and is 
enamoured of ancient types of women preserved in 
art; he has even been cast into ecstasy by the sight of 
hair from a Roman woman's tomb. He dreams of the 
"glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was 
Rome.'* He is a pagan and loves form and beauty. In 
his dream that night he is transported to the year of the 
eruption of Vesuvius and witnesses a performance of a 



DREAMS AND LITERATURE 39 

play by Plautus in a Roman theatre. Here he sees the 
real woman whose shapely breast had preserved its form 
in the lava that killed her. She also sees him and 
loves him. Her slave leads him to her home. She is a 
Roman courtesan and her name is Arria Marcella. She 
tells him that she has come to life because of his desire 
at the museum to meet her in life. His wish in waking 
life is fulfilled in his dream. As a matter of fact, as the 
poet comments, art preserves as alive all the beauty of 
antiquity. 

Octavius realises his wish and, soon, kisses and sighs 
are heard. But the charm is soon dispelled, for a Chris- 
tian man comes in who reproaches her, even though she 
did not belong to his religion. She refuses to abandon 
Octavius, but the Christian, by an exorcism, makes Arria 
release Octavius, who awakens and swoons. He loved 
her for the rest of his life and when he married later, in 
memory he was unfaithful to his wife, for he always 
thought of Arria. 

The meaning of all this is obvious. It is an expression 
of Gautier's favourite theory that Christianity is hostile 
to love and beauty, and has deprived the world of much 
of the greatness of paganism. But there is more here 
than Gautier himself imagined. First, the story like all 
dreams is a wish-fulfilment of the unconscious. Not 
only the girl but the world of her time becomes a real- 
ity and Octavius lives in his dream in the pagan world. 
There are the moments of anxiety where the Christian 
interferes and hinders the satisfaction of Octavius's love. 
Freud's theory is that an anxiety dream is formed when a 
repressed emotion encounters a strong resistance. 

Now Octavius is Gautier, who makes a work of art out 
of the dream, preserves it for humanity and gives us a 



40 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

valuable thing of beauty. Gautier makes up for the 
ugliness of to-day by preserving the beauty of the past. 
Gautier satisfies his longing for the old pagan world 
now vanished by making his hero live in it and realise 
the love of one of its courtesans. 

This story reveals the author as much as his Madam- 
oiselle de Maupin does. We have the same Gautier for 
whom only the material world existed, the Gautier who 
was obsessed by sex, hated Christianity and worshipped 
art alone. The trained psychoanalyst who wishes to go 
deep into the unconscious of Gautier will, I think, find 
some perverse qualities like fetichism, revealed not only 
in this tale but in others. 

Gautier pursues the motive of this story in several 
other tales. He lives constantly in his fantasies amidst 
the beauties of the ancient world. It is hard to believe 
that many of his tales of phantom love scenes laid in 
ancient times were not actually dreamed by him. 

His novel, The Mummy's Foot, his stories. The Golden 
Chain, One of Cleopatra's Nights, King Candaules, and 
two that are considered his best. The Dead Leman and 
The Fleece of Gold, show the unconscious worshipper of 
physical beauty in Gautier. All these stories may be 
analysed like dreams, for they are creatures of the 
author's imagination whereby he consoled himself for 
the loss of the pagan world. He was really a pagan 
transported into our time and he lived those times over 
in his stories. 

ni 

Kipling's dream story The Brushwood Boy is a very 
good confirmation of Freud's theories. We will analyse 
it psychoanalytically; it will be seen that the artificial 



DREAMS AND LITERATURE 41 

dream in it is inspired by the same causes as real 
dreams are. The story was published in the Century 
Magazine, December, 1895, and appeared in book form 
in 1901, a year after Freud's great work on Dreams had 
been issued. KipHng had no knowledge of Freud's 
theories, but he shows his hero suffering an unconscious 
repression; Georgie saw for many years visions of a girl 
he had met in childhood and apparently forgotten. He 
dreamed of her often and these dreams give us an insight 
into the hero's anxieties and longings. 

Georgie, the Brushwood Boy, dreamed at the age of 
three of a policeman. At the age of six he had both 
day and night dreams which always began with a pile 
of brushwood near the beach. There was a girl he 
saw at the pile of brushwood who merged with a prin- 
cess he saw in an illustration of Grimm's Fairy Tales. 
He called her Annie-an-louise. At the age of seven he 
saw at Oxford, on a visit, a girl who looked like the 
child in the illustrations of Alice in Wonderland , and he 
flirted with her. He went to India as a young m.an. In 
his dreams he saw the old policeman of his infant dreams, 
who was saying, "I am Policeman Day coming back from 
the city of Sleep." One day in a dream he stepped 
into a steamer, and saw a stone lily floating on the 
water. He met the same girl of his early dreams at the 
Lily Lock and they took a pony on the Thirty Mile 
Road. He often dreamed of her and in his dreams was 
happy when with her and unhappy when away from 
her. When he got back to England he heard a girl guest 
at his house sing a song of Policeman Day and the City 
of Sleep, and he guessed that it was she who wrote 
the music and composed the song. Her name was Miss 
Lacy; she was the girl he met as a child at Oxford. He 
took a ride with her and each found that the other had 



42 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

dreamed the same dreams. She knew all about the 
Thirty Mile Road and she had once kissed him in his 
sleep. At that very moment he had dreamed that she 
had bestowed the kiss. Each had cherished the other 
as an ideal, now to be realised, in marriage. 

What is the meaning of this story? How did Georgie 
come to love a girl he had known apparently only in 
his dreams? Where does the Policeman come in an3 
what is the secret of the dream journeys on the Thirty 
Mile Road? Georgie's dreams were the fulfilment of 
his unconscious desires in waking life. He had actually 
seen his love in his childhood, was attracted towards her 
but apparently forgot about her. But the love was there 
nevertheless; it was repressed. He neither knew why he 
dreamed of her nor did he believe she actually existed. He 
conjured her up in the books he read and identified her 
with the princess of the fairy tales. Like the neurotic pa- 
tient he did not know the cause of his anxieties; he could 
not fit altogether in the scheme of life; he was dreaming 
inexplicable dreams which were having an effect upon 
him in his waking hours. In a case like this we know 
that the dreams have a reality that makes them almost 
equivalent to events of the day. When he took those 
trips with her in his sleep he was fulfilling the uncon- 
scious wishes of his waking life. He suffered nightmares 
when anything interfered to take him away from her. 
The anxiety dream as Freud has explained shows that 
there has been an interference with the satisfying of the 
love desire. 

Policeman Day is the cause of terror because he rep- 
resents the time when the dreams do not occur, day 
time, when he becomes the symbol of love unrealised, for 
in the day Georgie is no longer with his love. Police- 
man Day is consciousness opposed to unconsciousness, 



DREAMS AND LITERATURE 43 

reality opposed to illusion. Miss Lacy also felt this 
when she sang the song with the refrain, 

Oh pity us ! Ah, pity us ! 

We wakeful ! C3h, pity us ! 

We that go back with Policeman Day 

Back from the City of Sleep. 

She also was with Georgie in her dreams and dreaded 
waking. He also was present in her unconscious and 
she never really forgot the boy she had met as a child, 
although she had no conscious memory of him. Their 
Si>fantile Impressions were powerful and ruled them 
all the time till they met again. They dreamed they 
were with each other because they wanted to be with 
each other. He guessed she wrote the poem because she 
had felt as he did. The poem was an anxiety poem, 
voicing the unconscious desire to be with the loved 
one. It represents the state of mind of both lovers; he 
had also felt the sentiments of the poem, but she put 
them in words. When he came back to England he 
was unconsciously going to find the ideal of his dreams, 
the original Annie-an-louise. When he found her he was 
cured of his dreams and anxieties. Their meeting acted 
like a cure for their mysterious longings. All their dreams 
were made up of infantile fantasies and represented re- 
pressions. The marriage satisfies these repressions. 

I dare say Kipling was his own model for the Brush- 
wood Boy. 

This disposes of any interpretations based on mere 
mental telepathy between George and Miss Lacy. They 
had the same feelings because they suffered the same 
repression and had met and loved each other in infancy. 

Among other dream stories by Kipling, two of the 
best are They and The Dream of Duncan Parrenness. 



44 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 



IV 

Brandes said in his book on Shakespeare: 
"As, knowing the life and experiences of the great 
modern poet, we are generally able to trace how these 
are worked upon and transformed in his works, it is 
reasonable to suppose that in olden times poets were 
moved by the same causes, acted in the same way, at 
least those of them who have been efficient. When we 
know of the adventures and emotions of the modern 
poet, and are able to trace them in the productions of 
his free fancy; when it is possible, where they are un- 
known to us, to evolve the hidden personality of the 
poet and — as every capable critic has experienced — to 
have our conjectures finally borne out by facts revealed 
by the contemporary author, then we cannot feel it to 
be impossible, that in the case of an older poet, we might 
also be successful in determining when he speaks ear- 
nestly from his heart, and in tracing his feelings and 
experiences through his work, especially when they are 
lyrical, and their mode of expression passionate and 
emotional." 

Just as we can build up a picture of a modern author 
from dreams he reports, we can do the same with ancient 
authors. 

I have tried to build up a portrait of the author of 
the Achilles-Patroclus episodes in the Iliady from a dream 
repeated there — that of Achilles in the twenty-third book. 
It is remarkable that no portrait of Homer, or whoever 
was the author of the books dealing with Achilles, has 
thus far been constructed. Whether we assume that 
one man or more wrote the Iliad, we may draw one in- 
evitable conclusion: That the parts of the poem in which 



DREAMS AND LITERATURE 45 

Achilles figures contain the clue to the author of those 
sections. It is assumed generally that Homer wrote 
those sections. Homer sang his own troubles through 
his hero as a medium. Unconsciously his own traits and 
personality crept in. The great tragedy of Achilles's 
life was the death of his friend Patroclus; his master 
passion was friendship. It does not require psychoanaly- 
sis to detect beneath the great grief of the warrior, 
Homer's own despair. The poet sings of the bereave- 
ment of his hero in too poignant a strain for any one 
to doubt that in Patroclus he was not bewailing some loss 
of his own. We need not hesitate in saying, to judge 
by the manner in which the poet treats of friendship, 
and writes of it with his heart's blood as it were, that 
some friendship was the crown of Homer's existence. He 
no doubt also suffered a terrible crisis when he lost his 
friend, as is only too apparent, through parting or by 
death. When the blow befell him, he was drawn to the 
one incident of the many in connection with the Trojan 
war, the legend centring around Achilles and Patroclus. 
Why did he not choose some other feature of which there 
were so many and with which other poets dealt? The 
very choice of the subject apart from the internal treat- 
ment furnishes the proof he could not help but choose 
that which interested him most because of some experi- 
ence in his own life. He had now an opportunity of reg- 
istering his sorrows and adding personal matters while 
singing his tale. Life had become empty to him and his 
only consolation was to put his pangs into song. He even 
wished to die. 

The key to these deductions is furnished by a sec- 
tion of the twenty-third book, of about fifty lines, of 
which John Addington Symonds says, "There is surely 
nothing more thrilling in its pathos throughout the whole 



46 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

range of poetry." Achilles sees Patroclus in his dreams, 
who recalls to him their youthful days and asks to be 
buried with him and foretells Achilles's own death. The 
warrior promises to grant his friend's requests and 
pleads: "But stand nearer to me, that embracing each 
other for a little while, we may indulge in sad lamenta- 
tion." Achilles tried in vain to touch him, and told his 
comrades afterwards: "All night the spirit of poor 
Patroclus stood by me, groaning and lamenting, and en- 
joined to me each particular and was wonderfully like 
unto himself." All this has too authentic and personal 
a touch for any one not to feel that Homer was re- 
porting a dream of his own and was attributing it to 
Achilles. The poet had also spent restless nights and 
saw his dead friend before him "wonderfully like unto 
himself"; the dream was very vivid to him, and more 
so if as tradition reports he was blind. 

No indeed, Homer was no mere spectator reciting 
Achilles's troubles in an objective manner. He had a 
great sorrow of his own and he did not go out of the 
way to counterfeit one. He sang his own loss; he told 
his own dream; Achilles was the medium through which 
he told the world of his own troubles. Patroclus's proph- 
ecy that Achilles would die soon shows that Homer 
after his loss had wished he too would die, and Homer 
must have dreamt that his own end would come soon, in 
accordance with the principle that we often dream as 
happening or about to happen what we wish to take 
place. He saw his friend in his dream just as we all do 
because we wish our friends to be still with us. This 
dream then is the clue to the tragedy of Homer's life. 

So Homer had loved a friend and suffered. Like Pa- 
troclus, he hoped his friend wanted to be buried with 
him; at least Homer wanted to have his own bones 



DREAMS AND LITERATURE 47 

repose near those of his friend. What the nature of 
the friendship was we cannot say; it may have been 
homosexual, a love which was common among the later 
Greeks. But it did have the element of passion. We 
know now the chief event of Homer's life. What the 
details were we cannot say. It is rather unsafe to guess. 
But there are a few facts that appear, whose import is 
significant. Achilles, we recall, resolved to fight the 
Trojans again only because they killed Patroclus. He 
was now ready to forget Agamemnon's wrong to him in 
depriving him of his captive woman. He knew that by 
his new resolve he would lose his life. He was willing 
to die for his friend. Homer's love for his friend was 
also so great that he too would no doubt have given 
up his life for him. This I believe establishes the pas- 
sionate element in the friendship of both warrior and 
poet. 

Again, Achilles blames himself for Patroclus's death. 
Had he not withdrawn from the fight, the Trojans would 
not have gained any victories and not have killed his 
friend. In short, he had been too sensitive, proud and 
sulky ; he had been too easy a prey to anger and revenge. 
Now he was suffering remorse. This indicates that 
Homer had quarrels with his friend. We know by 
psychoanalysis that people who lose by death a loved 
one feel guilt stricken if in life they had hostile 
wishes against the person ; in fact they attribute the death 
to these secret emotions. The remorse is a reaction to the 
hostile wishes, and it is possible, but I do not wish to 
press this point, that Homer's friend was either ostra- 
cised or shunned by many for some idiosyncrasy or 
event in his past life for which he was not to blame 
and hence the poet loved him the more. Patroclus re- 
minds Achilles in the dream that as a child, he. Pa- 



48 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

troclus, had killed a playmate. This detail would not 
have been invented by a poet writing impersonally. 
Homer thought of some event in the life of his own 
friend. 

But the real deduction nevertheless remains I believe 
unassailable, that the master passion of Homer's life was 
friendship, that Achilles contains much of the poet un- 
consciously and that many of the moods and passions 
given to him were Homer's own. Homer also suffered 
a terrible loss and sang of it by emphasising the despair 
of Achilles at Patroclus's death which made him forget 
Agamemnon's wrong. The great warrior's calamity was 
to him a sadder blow than the loss of his captive woman, 
with whom he had fallen in love, proving that with 
Homer, as with Achilles, friendship was stronger than 
the love passion. The fact that so little of love appears 
in the Iliad has ofteh excited comment. It is true the 
war was fought on account of a woman, but there is 
almost nothing of romantic love in the poem. This is 
because Homer had probably never felt love as he had 
known friendship. That love as a tender emotion exist- 
ed, we know from the lyric poems written not very long 
after Homer. If a man writes works in which he says 
so little about love for women, it may be because he 
has never had such love. That Homer was altogether 
indifferent about women, however, is not likely. Some 
critic will some day study the women in Homer from a 
psychoanalytic viewpoint. Women figure more in the 
Odyssey; it is unlikely that the same man wrote both 
poems; and Samuel Butler has tried to prove that the 
Odyssey was written by a woman. This is not so absurd 
as it seems; at any rate some woman's influence made 
itself felt in the writing of that poem. 



DREAMS AND LITERATURE 49 

It is only right to conclude that the same motives 
and principles of singing which actuated later poets 
prompted the earlier ones. If Milton appears in Lucifer, 
Goethe in Faust and Mephistopheles, Shakespeare in 
Hamlet, there can be no question Homer has drawn 
himself in Achilles and an intimate friend of his in 
Patroclus. 

After having formed this theory, I discovered the 
following significant passage in Plato's Republic, Book 
X, "For we are told that even Creophylus neglected 
Homer singularly in his lifetime." 



There are thousands of dreams, actual and artificial, 
reported in literature and history. Many of these may 
be analysed, but in most of them sufficient data are 
lacking to help us with the analysis. There are entire 
books cast in the form of dreams. There are Flaubert's 
Temptation of St. Anthony, Hauptman's Hannele, 
Strindberg's Dream Play, Maeterlinck's The Blue Bird, 
and its sequel The Betrothal, Newman's Dream of Ger- 
ontim, William Morrises Dream of John Ball. There 
are the artificial visions of Dante, Bunyan and Lang- 
land. There are dreams recorded in Apuleius, Rabelais, 
Chaucer, the Mort D 'Arthur, Swedenborg; in the Bible 
and the Talmud; in the histories of Herodotus, Xeno- 
phon, Suetonius, Dio Cassius; in Richard III and Cym- 
beline, in Paradise Lost and Robinson Crusoe and Haw- 
thorne. 

The dreams recorded in ancient and mediaeval litera- 
ture are in many cases actual ones. Dreams were form- 
erly regarded as being prophetic of the future, but they 
only rarely have such value. For this reason most of 



so THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

the interpretations put on them by ancient sages are 
worthless for our purposes. Cicero in his On Divination 
has reported many dreams and given us arguments pro 
and con regarding their prophetic value. It is to be 
hoped that the scientific investigation of Freud into the 
interpretation of dreams will not give superstition a new 
weapon. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE (EDIPUS COMPLEX AND THE BROTHER AND SISTER 
COMPLEX 



Freud opened up a new field of dream interpretation 
by his discovery of the significance of the remark of 
the chorus in Sophocles's (Edipus about men dreaming 
of incestuous relations with their own mothers. He saw 
this dream referred to the barbarous times in which 
such incest actually occurred, and to the infantile af- 
fection of the child for the mother. He saw that the 
counterpart of this dream was in the mythical material 
dramatised by Sophocles of a man murdering his father 
and marrying his mother. The dream means that one 
wants his mother's love. Herodotus reports a dream 
of Hippias who dreamt of incest with his mother. Plato's 
Republic, Bk. IX, says that in our dream our animal 
nature practises incest with the mother. Dio Cassius 
reports Caesar had such a dream. 

The influence of the writer's attitude towards his 
father or mother appears in his literary work. Stendhal 
has left us a record of the intense child love he had for 
his mother; he hated his father. One can see the re- 
sults of these conditions in his life, work and beliefs. 
He became an atheist, since people who throw off the 
influence of their fathers often cast aside also their be- 

51 



52 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

lief in a universal father. This also explains largely 
the atheism of Shelley, whose relations with his father 
were not cordial. The essay on the necessity of atheism 
was the cause of Shelley's expulsion from Oxford Uni- 
versity. 

An extreme attachment to the mother is the nucleus 
of future neurosis. If the mother is intensely loved by 
her infant son or boy, and then she dies, he will still be 
looking for a mother substitute, as it were. Freud's de- 
duction about the mysterious smile of the Mona da Lisa 
is very plausible; it was in all likelihood the unconscious 
reproduction by the artist of his mother's smile which 
Jbe rediscovered in another woman. 
f The best example of the CEdipus Complex in English 
literature is to be found, I think, in the poem by Cowper, 
On the Receipt of My Mother's Picture. Very few 
more touching tributes to a mother have been written. 
Cowper's mother died when he was six years old. The 
poem was written in 1790, when he was past 58 years. 
The poet never married and found a mother substitute 
in Mary Unwin, who ministered to his comfort; to her 
he wrote a famous sonnet and also the well known lyric. 

Cowper wrote the poem celebrating his love for his 
mother "not without tears." On actually receiving the 
picture he kissed it and hung it where it was the last 
object he saw at night and the first that met his eyes 
in the morning. In the poem he becomes a child again. 
The intervening fifty-two years drop out of his life; he 
is back with his mother and he narrates his infantile 
impressions. The psychoanalyst who is aware that this 
child's affection for his mother is its first love affair, 
will observe that Cowper in his poem is giving us remi- 
niscences of a childish fantasy that shaped the course of 
his whole life. His insanity and fits of depression, his 



THE (EDIPUS COMPLEX 53 

sentimental and platonic attachments to old ladies, his 
religious mania, are apparent, in the germ, in this poem. 
The poet recalls the affection and tenderness lavished 
upon him by his mother; he relates how he felt at her 
death, and was deceived by the maids who told him that 
she would return. He again sees her in her nightly visits 
to him in his chamber to see him laid away safe to sleep. 
He mentions the biscuits she gave him, dwells on her 
constant flow of love and on the way she stroked his 
head and smiled. He thus re-lives those days. One 
should remember these are the reflections of a man fifty- 
eight years old. In his troubles he still looks back to her 
for support. He contrasts his position then with his sit- 
uation now. He is suffering from depression and the 
memory of many griefs. His dead mother is like a bark 
safe in port. 

"But me scarce hoping to attain that rest, 
Always from port withheld, always distressed, 
Me howling blasts drive devious, tempests tossed, 
Sails ripping, seams opening wide, and compass lost. 
And day by day some current's thwarting force 
Sets me more distant from a prosperous course." 

It of course displeases people to have any association 
made between the noblest sentiment, mother love, and 
so repulsive a feature as incest. When Freud interpreted 
the marriage of (Edipus to his mother both from a his- 
torical and psychological point of view, and called at- 
tention to the dream in the play where the Chorus men- 
tions the most obnoxious dream that sometimes visits 
us mortals, that of incestuous relationship with the 
mother, he opened up a new field not only in psychology 
but in medicine. Psychoanalytic treatment has cured 
many people whose neurosis arose from the early at- 
tachment to the mother from which they were finally 



54 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

freed. Cowper was a victim of the (Edipus Complex; 
it was buried in his unconscious and in this poem of his 
he shows that the seeds that were sown fifty-two years 
ago were still bearing fruit. Literature can hardly fur- 
nish so good an example of the influence of the (Edipus 
Complex through so great a distance of time. 

In this poem Cowper put his hand unknowingly on the 
cause of all his troubles, but he never realised it. Had 
the poem been written in his twenties instead of his late 
fifties, the subliminal process of freeing himself by art 
from his (Edipus Complex might have made his life 
more pleasant. The fact that the poem was written so 
late shows that the unhealthy attachment clung to him 
all his life; it ruined him mentally and gave us his 
strange personality. 

Freud has shown us that psychoneuroses, like hysteria 
and obsessions, have their origin in an infantile overat- 
tachment to the parent of the opposite sex, which re- 
mains unconscious but nevertheless is an active and dis- 
turbing element. It is perfectly natural that this condi- 
tion should exist in infancy, but it disappears in the nor- 
mal person. If it does not, one's entire life will be in- 
fluenced by his inability to overcome the too intense 
love for mother or infantile hatred for the father. If a 
man has had an unfortunate repression in childhood such 
as the early death of a mother he loved intensely, his 
destiny in life will be affected. This fact has been un- 
derstood by people from time immemorial. If an ab- 
normal situation develops like a hatred in childhood for 
the mother, the child's life will be in the future shaped 
differently from that of most people. People especially 
are influenced in the way they react to the world and 
to love affairs by the frustration or repression of their 
earliest love. If they become writers their literary work 



THE (EDIPUS COMPLEX 55 

is charged with a certain tone, depending on the nature 
of the author's relation with his parents. 

By this discovery of Freud's literary criticism receives 
a new impetus. Most literary biographers unconscious- 
ly worked in accordance with this theory, for they al- 
ways stated, where possible, the relations of the writer 
to his parents. Freud merely formulated and proved 
the truth of the theory. 

Why were Schopenhauer and Byron such pessimists? 
Among the many causes that later in life contributed to 
impart the note of woe and despair to their work, was 
the fact that both men were in unusually unhappy rela- 
tions with their mothers and their quarrels with them 
are matters of literary history. Why are men like 
Lafcadio Hearn and Edgar Allan Poe the unhappy 
Ishmaelites in literature, with their morbid and weird 
ideas? They both lost in infancy or early childhood 
mothers to whom they were greatly attached. 

Facts like these have great significance. It is not 
claimed that other factors do not go into the making of 
the man, but his relations with his parents is the earliest 
cause in determining his mental, moral and emotional 
make up. A m.an who hates his father sees in many of 
his future enemies the image of his father. One who 
is overattached to his mother looks unconsciously for 
her counterpart, among women, in seeking his mate. He 
sees a reminder of his father in those people who in- 
terfere with his plans, ambitions and conduct. He 
sees the father in the rivals he has in love affairs, just 
as in infancy he found in his father his rival in the 
affections of his mother. This seemingly absurd and 
repellent view has been scientifically demonstrated by 
Freud and his disciples so that I refer objectors to it 
to their works. 



56 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

The influence of step-mothers has always been noted 
in ancient times and the amount of material in folk lore 
dealing with the effects of step-mothers on the lives of 
children is large. We are all familiar with the Cinder- 
ella story. Literature is rich in examples of writers 
whose step-mothers coloured their lives for them. Strind- 
berg's misogyny no doubt dates back to his early dis- 
like for his step-mother. 

All literary works show between the lines a writer's 
early attitude towards his parents. An interesting vol- 
ume might be written on the relations of literary men to 
their mothers. We would find the mother unconsciously 
influencing literary masterpieces. We might find the 
misanthropy of Moliere's Le Misanthrope and the C3aii- 
cism of Thackeray in Vanity Fair each due to the fact 
that both these men while boys lost their mothers, though 
later personal tragedies influenced them. Thackeray 
loved Mrs. Brookfield, a married woman, and Moliere 
was married to a coquette. 

The fact that the mothers of Coleridge and Dickens 
had almost no influence upon them is seen in their work. 

The relation of the only child to its parents must be 
mentioned here. The studies of both Freud and Brill 
in regard to the later neurotic condition of the only 
child applies to literary men who were only children. 
John Ruskin, although subjected to a strict education, 
was petted and spoiled nevertheless like the average only 
child. His precociousness made his parents admire and 
worship him. He was attached to his "papa" and 
"mamma" for the rest of their lives. He was not young 
when they died and he preserved the attitude of the 
child towards them. His mother lived to a great age. 
When he was separated from his wife he returned to 



THE CEDIPUS COMPLEX 57 

his parents to live. His later tragedy, the unmanly 
love for Rose Le Touche, which forms a most humiliating 
affair in his life, shows he was a neurotic from childhood. 
He was in the later part of his life subject to periods 
of psychosis. In his actions he was eccentric; he would 
be invited to lecture on art and would give a talk on 
economics. 

His passions were love of beauty in the early part of 
his life, and interest in economic reform in his middle 
and old age. 

We must always remember he was an only child. In 
his autobiography Praeterita, he refers often to his 
"papa" and "mamma." 

Alexander Pope, the poet, was also a spoiled child, 
though he had a half sister. 

The seeds of Browning's optimistic philosophy were 
sown in the normal and quiet affection that existed be- 
tween him and his mother. There was no mad attach- 
ment, no repression, no ill feeling, and hence he never 
became an abnormal or morbid poet. He had less neu- 
roticism than any of the great English poets of the nine- 
teenth century. His optimism was also fostered by his 
happy marriage to Elizabeth Barrett. 

Freud's theories about the relations of the child to the 
parents are borne out whenever we consider the life of a 
poet. 

n 

The birth of a new child also has an influence on the 
psychic life of the child. There is also always some- 
thing in the relation between brothers and sisters that 
affects their lives. Hence the subject of incest in litera- 
ture is of paramount import, repulsive as the theme may 



58 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

be.* It has been most exhaustively studied in uncon- 
scious manifestations in fictitious characters by Otto 
Rank in his Incest Motiv (1912), which should be trans- 
lated into English. 

The only phase of the subject I wish to touch on here 
is the close relationship that prevails in some cases be- 
tween brother and sister among authors. The brother 
and sister complex, as it may be called, shows its ef- 
fects upon the literary work of the writer. 

The extreme attachment of Renan to his sister Henri- 
etta and of Wordsworth to his sister Dorothy had much 
to do with the nature of the literary work of these men. 
The attachment explained from the point of view of psy- 
choanalysis amounts to this. The affection which each 
man has for his mother is transferred to the sister who 
is the nearest resemblance to the mother. This new fix- 
ation may remain too long and the man hence loves no 
other woman. The affection is usually at its height in 
youth before the man marries another, in case he does 
marry. Both Renan and Wordsworth married after they 
were thirty. The incest idea was unconsciously present 
but repressed by the natural disgust the men felt as a 
result of education and training. In all likelihood had 
each of these authors been separated from his sister in 
infancy and met her years later in youth, he might have 
fallen in love with her. 

The effects of this extreme brotherly and sisterly love 
have been studied but not yet exhaustively. No doubt 
much of the effeminacy of Renan, the gentleness, the 
moral tone, the kindliness, we find in his writings was 
due to this attachment to his sister. He dedicated his 

*Edgar Saltus has touched on the theme in a few of his 
novels, notably Th^ Monster. 



THE (EDIPUS COMPLEX 59 

Life of Jesus to her. As I show elsewhere he drew him- 
self in this book, and his love for his sister was a great 
factor in his making Jesus somewhat effeminate. He has 
also left a tribute to her in his My Sister Henrietta, 

The influence of Wordsworth's sister upon him mani- 
fested itself in several ways, one of which is the utter re- 
spectability of his poetry, and another the almost total 
absence of any reference to love or sex. His sister was 
largely responsible for the trend of her brother's mind. 
She gave him eyes and ears, as he put it, helped him to 
observe nature and was herself a great force in the evolu- 
tion of the new poetry. Her influence has been under- 
rather than over-estimated. Another reason for the ab- 
sence of love poetry in Wordsworth may have been due 
to a guilty conscience, as he left an illegitimate daugh- 
ter in France, he not being able to marry the mother 
for justifiable reasons. Professor Harper first published 
the story. 

As one might have expected, neither Henrietta Renan 
nor Dorothy Wordsworth ever married, though the latter 
is said to have been in love with Coleridge. 

Charles Lamb, the Gentle Elia, owes probably much 
of his quality of gentleness to his sister Mary, "Bridget 
Elia." She appears in his famous essays and they col- 
laborated together in writing poems and tales. His 
kindness was no doubt enhanced by his pity for her un- 
fortunate fits of insanity and by the fact that in one 
of these fits she had killed her mother. 

The love felt for their sisters by Byron and Shelley 
made the subject of incest a common topic of discussion be- 
tween them. They went so far as to question whether the 
law or feeling against marriage between brother and sis- 
ter was not a convention based on ungrounded prejudice. 
Byron's love for his sister, Mrs. Augusta Leigh, did not 



yi 



60 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

create feminine qualities in him. She was to him a sort 
of refuge from the disappointment of other love affairs, 
a shelter when public opinion was against him. His 
poems to her rank among his best. He may have had 
unconscious incest thoughts in regard to her, and he may- 
have drawn himself as married to her in Cam, where she 
may be Cain's sister Adah. But the accusation that By- 
ron ever indulged in unlawful relationship with his sis- 
ter is a groundless libel. We have no evidence for it 
and we have no right to make any assumptions because 
of misinterpretations put on his work. Between the 
thought and the deed there is a wide gap. Carlyle once 
said, the hand is on the trigger, but the man is not a 
murderer before the trigger is pulled. The story of the 
reputed incest with his sister was first published by Mrs. 
Harriet Beecher Stowe. The myth was revived again by 
"documentary" evidence furnished by Lord Lovelace, a 
descendant of Byron, and published in Astarte. A later 
woman biographer, Ethel C. Mayne, accepts the story. 
The entire tale is ably demolished by Richard Edggumbe 
in his Byron, the Last Phase, where he applies, without 
a knowledge of Freud's views, psychoanalytic methods 
to Byron. Brandes also defended Byron years ago. 

Lord Lovelace published a love letter alleged to have 
been written to Augusta Leigh, Byron's sister, dated May 
17, 1 8 19, but this letter was really meant for Mary Cha- 
worth, to whom he wrote: "I not long ago attached my- 
self to a Venetian for no earthly reason (although a pret- 
ty woman) but because she was called . . . and she often 
remarked (without knowing the reason) how fond I was 
of the name." The name which is crossed out is Mary. 
The mistress was the Venetian Mariana (the Italian for 
Mary Anne) Segati, the poet's mistress from November, 
1816, to February, 18 18. He was thus showing Mary 



THE (EDIPUS COMPLEX 6i 

Chaworth he still loved her. It is not likely he would 
try to impress Augusta with his love for a woman named 
Mary and again not probable that he would tell his sis- 
ter of his liaison when he and his sister were supposed 
to love each other. The tone of this letter differs from 
that of others to his sister. 

In 1820 Byron was writing in his Don Juan that he has 
a passion for the name Mary, that it still calls up the 
realm of fancy where he beholds what never was to be, 
and that he is not yet quite free from the spell. He loved 
Mary Chaworth all his life. 

Byron's alleged criminal attachment to his sister was 
supposed to be the mystery in Manfred's life, revealed by 
these words in the second act, when wine is offered to 
him: 

"'tis blood — my blood! the pure warm stream 
Which ran in the veins of my fathers and ours, 
When we were in our youth and had one heart, 
And loved each other as we should not love, 
And this was shed." 

In a poem published a year later. The Duel, there is 
also a reference to blood — "And then there was the 
curse of blood." This line and the passage in Manfred 
merely refer to the fact that an ancestor of Byron, the 
fifth Lord, not a direct ancestor, killed Mr. Chaworth 
whose blood flowed in Mary's veins. Astarte then in 
Manfred is Mary Chaworth and not Augusta. 

Shelley had a great affection for his sister Elizabeth 
and wanted his friend Hogg to marry her. She returned 
to her father and Shelley was broken hearted that she 
drifted away from his own influence. He thought she 
was not lost to him and wanted to take her with him 
to the west of Ireland in 1 814. He continued to love 



62 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

her, and this influenced his work. In the first edition 
of the Revolt of Islam he made Laon and Cynthia, 
who were brother and sister, lovers. The pubhsher 
made the poet regretfully change certain passages, most- 
ly single lines. In the early preface the poet concluded 
he could not see why an innocent act like love of brother 
and sister for each other should arouse the hatred of 
the multitude. 

In Rosalind and Helen he describes Helen visiting a 
spot where a sister and brother had given themselves 
up to one another, and had a child, who was torn by 
people limb from limb. The mother was stabbed while 
the youth was saved by a priest, to be burned for God's 
grace. Their ghosts visited the spot. 



CHAPTER V 

THE AUTHOR ALWAYS UNCONSCIOUSLY IN HIS WORK 



"No man," says Dr. Johnson in his Life of Cowley, 
"needs to be so burdened with life as to squander it in 
voluntary dreams of fictitious occurrences. The man 
that sits down to suppose himself charged with treason 
or peculation, and heats his mind to an elaborate purga- 
tion of his character from crimes which he was never 
within the possibility of committing differs only by 
the infrequency of his folly from him who praises beauty 
which he never saw; complains of jealousy which he 
never felt; supposes himself sometimes invited and 
sometimes forsaken; fatigues his fancy and ransacks his 
memory for images which may exhibit the gaiety of 
hope, or the gloominess of despair; and dresses his 
imaginary Chloris or Phyllis sometimes in flowers fad- 
ing as her beauty, and sometimes in gems as lasting as 
her virtues." 

The shrewd doctor displayed great insight into the 
psychology of authorship in these remarks. They form 
a good argument against those who deny the importance 
of the personal note in literature. 

One objection that these critics make is that an author 
may deliberately conceal himself and that in fact writers 
have often done so. Thus a man who is happily married 

63 



\ 



64 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

may write a novel or play, seething with attacks upon the 
marriage institution, full of cynical and bitter statements 
about women and love. The author may say that book 
does not represent his own life. It does, however, in that 
it shows his reaction to seeing life of this kind lived by 
w others; .it means that he has been struck by the cruelty 
S or injustice of it, and that unconsciously he reflected 
that he too might but for a chance throw of the dice of 
fate be in the same position. His attitude towards the 
lives of others is part of his own life. The fact that he 
has suffered pain by witnessing other people's lives, 
shows that his own psyche is affected. The life de- 
scribed has been lived by some of his friends or rela- 
tives, and some of his ancestors. The griefs of others 
often affect us, if not like our own, at least strongly 
enough to make us devote ourselves to mitigating them. 
Investigation however will show that the great works 
voicing sorrows were experienced by those who wrote 
about them. It is an unhappily married writer like George 
Sand, who has given us the novels that deal with the mar- 
riage problem. It is a disappointed lover like Heine 
or De Musset who writes the saddest love poems. Life 
is made up of so many sorrows that writers do not have 
to go out of their way to invent them. The rich man 
does not imagine himself starving and write books 
where the pangs of hunger are described. Such litera- 
ture is written usually by a man who has starved, a man 
like George Gissing. The financier who has never had 
any business troubles as a rule will not waste energy 
nor court pain by trying to figure how a bankrupt feels 
and put those feelings in art. Such feelings are usually 
delineated by a man who has himself been bankrupt 
Hke Balzac in his Ccesar Birrotecm. Of course, no writer 
could have felt all the emotions he describes. Balzac, 



AUTHOR UNCONSCIOUSLY IN HIS WORK 65 

for example, never had the troubles of Goriot, for he 
never had children to be ungrateful to him. But even 
here there must have been some personal affair, for the 
author had suffered from ingratitude of some other kind 
and all ingratitude hurts. 

The author again may write merely for amusement or 
commercial purposes. In these cases it is true the 
author's personality may not be in his work any more 
than an editorial writer's real opinions are in the edi- 
torial which he writes in accordance with the policy of 
his paper. A writer may study the demands of the pub- 
lic and try to comply with them. In cases like these 
the reader may detect the insincerity or learn of it by 

clues. Here the works are not representative of the 

author and he can no more be judged by them, than a 7 
person who would invent or falsify his dreams in re- ^ 
porting them to a psychoanalyst. Certainly these would 
not reveal the unconscious. And I realise much "litera- 
ture" is of this nature. 

An author again may purposely conceal himself, but 
the key once discovered reveals him. Deliberate and 
continuous concealment by the author of his person- 
ality can often be detected. We know Merimee and 
Nietzsche were personally entirely different from what 
some of their books would lead us to suspect. Merimee 
was not cold nor Nietzsche cruel ; one was too emotional 
and the other too genteel. 

A good example of the follies that may follow by the ^ 
refusal to adopt psychoanalytic methods in literature 
is seen in the case of Charlotte Bronte. 

It had always been noticed that several similar mo- 



66 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

tives appeared in her novels; the love of a girl for her 
school master, a married man; an intense craving for 
affection; and pictures of sad partings. It was known 
that Charlotte had attended the school of M. Heger, 
a married man in Brussels, that she had left it and then 
returned, and later departed finally. There were critics 
who suspected that Charlotte was really in love with her 
teacher and that various scenes in her novels had their 
counterpart in reality. Among these were Sir Wemyss 
Reid, Augustine Birrel and Angus Mackay. But other 
critics scoffed at the idea. So great a Bronte student 
as Clement Shorter said it would be the act of treachery 
to pry into the writer's heart. May Sinclair, especially, 
repudiated with indignation the possibility that Bronte 
drew on actual facts for her novels; and her purposes 
in writing her The Three Brontes, was to demolish the 
theory that Charlotte Bronte was in love with M. Heger. 
But shortly after this work appeared there were pub- 
lished in 19 1 3 in the London Times one of the "scoops" 
of the age, four pathetic heart burning love letters by 
Charlotte Bronte to M. Heger, written without pride, 
pleading for a little affection. The secret was out; 
there could be no doubt that the scenes of unrequitted 
love in her novels were due to her own unreciprocated 
love for M. Heger and that Charlotte was Lucy Snowe 
and Jane Eyre in VUlette and Jane Eyre, respectively. 
Miss Sinclair wrote an article attacking the publishing of 
the letters which had disproved her theory. 

An excellent study of the influences of Charlotte's sad 
love affair on her work was made by Mrs. Ellis H. Chad- 
wick in her In the Footsteps of the Brontes. It is really 
a psychoanalytical study, for it traces the novelist's 
work to her repressions. Another study has been prom- 
ised by Lucille Dooley, who made several abstracts of 



AUTHOR UNCONSCIOUSLY IN HIS WORK 67 

psychoanalytical studies of genius from essays by 
Freud's disciples, in the American Journal of Psychology. 

I just wish to point out a few of the influences of 
Bronte's love affair upon her work. Charlotte Bronte 
published Jane Eyre in October, 1847, ^^d wrote in 
1848: "Details, situations which I do not understand 
and cannot personally inspect, I would not for the 
world meddle with. . . . Besides not one feeling on any 
subject, public or private, will I ever affect that I do 
not really experience." 

After she left Brussels on December 29, 1843, she 
wrote that she suffered much and that she would never 
forget what the parting cost her. This departure in- 
spired the description of the flight from Thornfield 
(which is Brussels in Jane Eyre), the part of the novel 
which she told her biographer appealed to her most. 

In her letters to Heger which were published she begs 
for sympathy as a beggar for crumbs from the table 
of the rich man. In the second letter written in 1844 
she tells how she waited six months for a letter and she 
sent this one through friends. In VUlette, in the twen- 
ty-fourth chapter, she wrote how Lucy Snowe studied 
to quench her madness because she received no letters. 
"My hour of torment was the post hour." She wrote 
that in all the land of Israel there was but one Saul, cer- 
tainly but one David to soothe him. Heger was the 
David, she says symbolically, to soothe her. (In the 
novel Heger is called Paul Carl David Emanuel). 

VUlette is the most autobiographical of her novels. It 
appeared in the beginning of 1853 and had occupied the 
author the previous two years. It cost her great effort 
and she recalled in it the sleepless nights in Brussels 
about which she told Mrs. Gaskell; her anxieties 
were caused by her hopeless love for M. Heger. She knew 



68 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

that the novel would be recognised by the Hegers, and 
she printed in it a statement that the author reserved 
the rights of translation, as she feared M. Heger would 
read it if it were translated into French. She first had 
wanted to publish it anonymously. She also refused to 
make a happy ending which was wanted by the pub- 
lishers; she would not have Paul and Lucy marry, for 
such was not the case in real life. (Jane Eyre, however, 
married Rochester.) The book is full of the Hegers, 
even their children being in it. Madame Heger does not 
figure in a favourable light, and one could hardly expect 
a girl to admire the wife of the man she loved herself. 

The interval between the first and last of the letters 
published in the Times is about two years, which covers 
the saddest period of her life, the time she left Brussels 
finally on December 29th, 1843, ^^^ the end of 1845. 
She had gone to Belgium originally in February, 1842; 
she was then twenty-six and Heger was seven years her 
senior. She left in November, 1842, when her aunt 
died, and returned in January, 1843. Heger wanted her 
to return and Charlotte was only too eager, though she 
could have received a better position. She describes this 
second trip in Villette. She left finally because Mme. 
Heger really did not want her services. 

Charlotte's brother Branwell also fell in love with a 
married person, the wife of his employer. 

Charlotte Bronte drew herself as a man in her first 
novel. The Professor. She calls herself William Crims- 
worth, who loves his teacher, Mile. Renter. The account 
she gives of the parting of the student with his teacher 
is again reminiscent of her memories of parting from M. 
Heger. She drew herself then just once in this role of the 
male lover. 



AUTHOR UNCONSCIOUSLY IN HIS WORK 69 

"The principal male characters," says Mrs. Chadwick, 
"to be found in Charlotte Bronte's great novels were 
those drawn from M. Heger, M. Pelet, Rochester, Rob- 
ert Moore, Louis Moore and Paul Emanuel." 

Hence we may conclude as a rule that when a motive 
appears often, or a note persists continuously, in a 
writer's work, there were reasons therefor in his per- 
sonal life. Charlotte Bronte was no exception to the rule. 

She married in 1854 but did not really love her hus- 
band. Poor Charlotte Bronte! She married late and 
not for love, and all her youth she craved love and 
wanted to marry and be a mother. She betrays herself 
in a dream reported in the twenty-first chapter of Jane 
Eyre. Had she known that dreams are realised uncon- 
scious wishes she might never have recounted this dream, 
a frequent one among women, both married and unmar- 
ried, who have no children. 

"During the past week scarcely a night had gone over 
my couch tliat had not brought with it a dream of an 
infant, which I sometimes hushed in my arms, sometimes 
dandled on my knee, sometimes watched playing with 
daisies on a lawn, or, again, dabbling its hands in run- 
ning water. It was wailing this night and laughing the 
next; now it nestled close to me, and now it ran from 
me; but whatever mood the apparition evinced, what- 
ever aspect it wore, it failed not for seven successive 
nights to meet me the moment I entered the land of 
slumber." 

Literature can scarcely present a more personal con- 
fession in disguised form. That dream of Jane Eyre's 
was Charlotte Bronte's, who wanted to have children by 
M. Heger. 



70 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 



The value of the study of an author's works in con- 
nection with his life is also seen in the case of Dickens. 
An excellent book by Edwin Pugh, Charles Dickens 
Originals, really applies the psychoanalytic method, to 
a large extent, to Dickens's work. 

Some of the main influences in Dickens's life and 
work were due to two girls, Maria Beadnell, his boyhood 
sweetheart, who rejected him, and Mary Hogarth, his 
wife's sister, who died young. These women were re- 
spectively the models of Dora in David Copperfteld, and 
Little Nell. 

The story of Dickens's early love became known a 
half dozen years ago when his letters to Miss Beadnell 
were published. He was eighteen when he loved her, 
and when she finally rejected him he wrote to her say- 
ing he could never love another. Not long afterwards 
he married. In 1855, when he was nearly forty-four 
years old, he said in a letter to his future biographer, 
Forster, that he could never open David Copperfield 
■^without going wandering away over the ashes of all 
that youth and hope, in the wildest manner." He was 
thinking of his love for Maria, for the reference in the 
letter is to Dora, of whom Maria was the prototype. 
She also appears as Dolly Varden in Barnaby Rudge. 
He again draws her in Estella in Great Expectations, 
and describes the sufferings that Pip, who is himself, 
had undergone on account of her. 

In 1855 Maria Beadnell, who had become Mrs. Henry 
Winter, wrote to the author, and he agreed to meet 
her clandestinely. He was unhappily married but not yet 
separated from his wife. The separation came a few 



AUTHOR UNCONSCIOUSLY IN HIS WORK 71 

years later. Dickens was disillusioned when he met 
Mrs. Winter; she was homely and stout. He describes 
his disillusionment in Little Dorrit, where Mrs. Winter 
is Flora Finching. "Flora whom he had left a lily, had 
become a peony." And then he gives way to a personal 
pathetic cry. He could no longer love his first love, he 
was not in love with his wife; with all his fame and 
wealth he had missed the greatest pleasure in life. "That 
he should have missed so much, and at his time of life 
should look so far about him for any staff to bear 
him company upon his downward journey and cheer 
it — ^was a just regret." He looked into the dying fire 
by which he sat and reflected that he too would pass 
through such changes and be gone. Thus we can trace 
the childwife Dora and the sufferings of Pip to Dickens's 
first love. 

Mary Hogarth, who helped to shape Dickens's ideals 
of women, was a younger sister of his wife, and she died 
as a girl. Dickens was so shocked by this that he could 
not go on for a while with his Pickwick Papers and 
Oliver Twist, This was about 1837, when he was 
twenty-five. He has left a number of records of the 
great and lasting effect upon him of the grief he felt. 
He describes a dream where he sees her; he thinks of 
her when in America. She was his model for Little Nell 
and he wrote that old wounds bled afresh when he wrote 
this story. But she was responsible for all those pure, 
bloodless girls, lacking in individuality, which fill his 
pages. She died when she was innocent of worldly 
guile, and unconsciously was the type before him when 
he drew women. He could not understand the modern 
intellectual woman and he owes this literary deficiency to 
his misfortune. "And so he presents to us," says Mr. 
Pugh, "that galaxy of amazing dolls variously christened 



72 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

Rose Maylie, Kate Nickleby, Madeline Bray, Little 
Nell, Emma Haredale, Mary Graham, ' Florence Dom- 
bey, Agnes Wickfield, Ada Clare and Lucy Manette. . . . 
Modem criticism has exhausted itself in scathing de- 
nunciation of these poor puppets. And yet there is per- 
haps something to be said in defence of the convention 
that created them. Dickens was never a self-conscious 
artist. He had indeed no use for the word Art." His 
female types were the result of his faith in the perfec- 
tion of woman as he saw it in Mary Hogarth. 

Two women who did not influence his work are his 
mother and his wife. He entertained no affection for 
either. He had no pleasant memories of his mother be- 
cause she was indifferent to his sufferings when he 
worked as a boy in the blacking factory. She is drawn 
in Mrs. Nickleby. David Copperfield's mother may also 
have been an idealised portrait of Dickens's own mother, 
but Mrs. Copperfield resembles more the Little Nells 
and other characters based on Mary Hogarth in her 
colourlessness, and her goodness. Dickens's own wife 
scarcely, if ever, served as a model for any of his female 
characters. They lived apart for the last twelve years 
of the author's life. 

Dickens's greatness lies in his portrayals of male char- 
acters. He was poor in his female characterisation be- 
cause Mary Hogarth unconsciously influenced him into 
drawing spineless women and he kept the painful mem- 
ories of his love affair with Maria Beadnell suppressed 
except to caricature her in Dora and Estella and Flora. 
When we think of Dickens we have memories of men 
like Sam Weller, Micawber (Dickens's father), Uriah 
Keep, Pecksniff, and others. Why he especially ex- 
celled in characterisation of these types familiarly known 
all over the world, and how he was led to that peculiar 



AUTHOR UNCONSCIOUSLY IN HIS WORK 73 

"exaggerative" portrayal of eccentric creatures is a 
theme which can be explained by psychoanalytic the- 
ories and the application of Freud's theories of the 
comic, and a study of the originals and the types 
Dickens met in his life. It should also be remem- 
bered that this style of character portrayal was com- 
mon in Dickens's youth, and he also imitated other 
writers. . 

IV 

Swinburne has been usually regarded as an imper- 
sonal poet, though some of his critics have tried to see 
in the accounts of derelictions from the path of virtue 
in the poems, records of actual experiences. The poet 
has himself written something on the subject. In the 
Dedicatory Epistle of 1904 to the collected edition of 
his works he wrote: "There are photographs from life 
in the book (Poems and Ballads, 1865) ; there are 
sketches from imagination. Some which keen-sighted 
criticism has dismissed with a smile as ideal or imagi- 
nary were as real and actual as they well could be; others 
which have been taken for obvious transcripts from 
memory were utterly fantastic or dramatic. . . . Friend- 
ly and kindly critics, English and foreign, have detected 
ignorance of the subject in poems taken straight from 
the life, and have protested that they could not believe 
me were I to swear that poems entirely or mainly fanci- 
ful were not faithful expressions or transcriptions of the 
writer's actual experience and personal emotion." 

The poet does not tell us which poems were fanciful 
and which were not. He does let us know that some of 
the poems were the record of his own experience. I 
propose to show that many of the poet's best known 
poems had a personal background and thus to differ 



74 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

with the theory usually prevalent that Swinburne, in- 
stead of having sung his own soul, was but a clever 
manipulator of rhyme and metre. The clue to the in- 
vestigation is furnished by our knowledge that one of 
his greatest poems in the Poems and Ballads, "The Tri- 
umph of Time," was inspired by the one love disap- 
pointment of his life. It was written in 1862 when he 
was twenty-five years old and "represented with the 
exactest fidelity," says Gosse, his biographer, "his emo- 
tions which passed through his mind when his anger 
had died down, and when nothing remained but the in- 
finite pity and the pain." Swinburne met the young lady 
at the home of the friends of Ruskin and Bume- Jones, 
Dr. John Simon and his wife. She was a kinswoman 
of theirs. She gave the poet roses and sang for him. 
She laughed in his face when he proposed. He was hurt 
grievously and went up to the sea in Northumberland 
and composed the poem. The poet told Gosse the story 
in 1876. 

The poem is a cry of a wounded heart; one of the most 
powerful in all literature. The poet recounts all his emo- 
tions and foresees that this affair will influence his life. 
Many lines in it are familiar to Swinburne lovers, such as 
"I shall never be friend again with roses," "I shall hate 
sweet music my whole life long." It is one of Swin- 
burne's masterpieces and Rupert Brooke considered it the 
masterpiece of the poet. 

One may now see that the terrible declamation against 
love, one of the lengthiest and best choruses in his play 
Atlanta in Calydon, rings with a personal note. The 
lines beginning "For an evil blossom was born" con- 
stitute one of the most bitter outcries against love in 
literature. Unconsciously, memories of his lost love 
were at work and the chorus must have been written 



AUTHOR UNCONSCIOUSLY IN HIS WORK 75 

about the same time as "The Triumph of Time." The 
play itself was published in 1864. Swinburne is the 
Chorus and thus chants his own feelings in the Greek 
legend he tells. 

Swinburne may have had other love affairs though 
Gosse tells us this was his only one. I find memories 
of the unfortunate episode throughout the entire first 
volume of Poems and Ballads, and note recurrences to 
the theme in later volumes. In one of his best known 
poems, "The Forsaken Garden," written in 1876, he 
dwells on the death of love. The idea of love having an 
end is repeated with much persistency throughout many 
of his poems; he so harps on the same note, that the 
suspicions of critics should have been roused before we 
learned about the romance of his life. No doubt the 
reason he was attracted to the love tragedy of Tristram 
of Lyonesse, published in 1882, was because of his own 
tragic experience; and in the splendid prelude (written, 
Gosse tells us, in 187 1) we see the effects of his love af- 
fair. 

We have evidence of Swinburne's grief in two of the 
greatest poems of the Poems and Ballads, where it was 
least suspected, in "Anactoria" and "Dolores," poems 
whose morality he had to defend. He pours some light 
on the subject in his Notes on Poems and Reviews, pub- 
lished as a reply to his critics after the issue of his 
Poems and Ballads in 1865. Of "Anactoria" he said: 
"In this poem I have simply expressed, or tried to ex- 
press, that violence of affection between one and another 
which hardens into rage and deepens into despair. . . . 
I have tried to cast my spirit into the mould of hers 
(Sappho), to express and represent not the poem but 
the poet. . . , As to the ^blasphemies' against God or 
gods of which here and elsewhere I stand accused — they 



76 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

are to be taken as the first outcome or outburst of foiled 
and fruitless passion recoiling on itself." 

In other words he was singing his own grief through 
Sappho. The rage and despair were Swinburne's own 
and the "blasphemies" were his own reaction to frus- 
trated love. 

On "Dolores," the poet says: "I have striven here to 
express that transient state of spirit through which a 
man may be supposed to pass, foiled in love and weary 
of loving, but not yet in sight of rest; seeking rest in 
those violent delights which have violent ends in free 
and frank sensualities which at last profess to be no 
more than they are." 

No doubt the poet gave himself up to light loves as 
a result of his disappointment. But the point here to 
be remembered is that the poem is by his own confes- 
sion a result of a state of spirit through which a "man 
foiled in love" (the poet himself) may be said to pass 
and through which Swinburne did pass. 

Let us examine some of his lyrics, chiefly those in 
his first volume where we can see the result of the love 
affair. 

In "Laus Veneris" he breaks off from his story to 
say: 

"Ah love, there is no better life than this. 
To have known love how bitter a thing it is, 
And afterwards be cast out of God's sight." 

He spoke here from personal memories. 

After he tells the story of "Les Noyades," of the youth 
who was bound to a woman who did not love him and 
thrown into the river Loire, the poet ends abruptly, 
and addresses his own love, regretting that this could 
not have happened to him. He re-echoes the sentiment 



AUTHOR UNCONSCIOUSLY IN HIS WORK 77 

in "The Triumph of Time" where he wishes he were 
dead with his love. Yet no critic has ventured to see 
how Swinburne was drawn to this tale by his uncon- 
scious, by the fact that he had lost his love; and no 
critic dreamed of claiming that the following conclud- 
ing lines were personal and addressed to the kinswoman 
of the Simons: 

"O sweet one love, O my life's delight, 
Dear, though the days have divided us, 
Lost beyond hope, taken far out of sight. 
Not twice in the world shall the Gods do this." 

His address to the spirit of Paganism, the "Hymn of 
Proserpine," which should not necessarily bring up 
thoughts of his love tragedy, nevertheless begins, "I 
have lived long enough, have seen one thing, that 
love hath an end," and later on he complains that 
laurel is green for a season, and love is sweet for a day, 
but love grows bitter with treason and laurel outlives 
not May. I fear that the poet deserves more sympathy 
than he has hitherto been accorded. He had accused 
his love of having encouraged him, hence he knew what 
he meant when he sang those sad words "love grows 
bitter with treason." 

Two other pathetic poems are "A Leave Taking^ 
where he constantly reiterates "she would not love" and 
he turns for consolation to his songs; and "Satia de 
Sanguine" where he says, "in the heart is the prey for 
gods, who crucify hearts, not hands." 

In "Rondel" he begins: 

"These many years since we began to be 
What have the gods done with us? what with me, 
What with my love? They have shown me fates and fears. 
Harsh springs and fountains bitterer than the sea." 



78 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

In the "Garden of Proserpine," he sings, 

"And love grown faint and fretful, 
Sighs and with eyes forgetful 
Weeps that no loves endure." 

This poem shows his longing for rest after his sad 
experience; he is tired of everything but sleep. 
In "Hesperia" he again refers to his troubles: 

"As the cross that a wild nun clasps till the edge of it 

bruises her bosom, 
So love wounds as we grasp it and blackens and burns as a 

flame; 
I have loved much in my life ; when the live bud bursts with 

the blossom 
Bitter as ashes or tears is the fruit, and the wine thereof 

shame." 

Even in "The Leper" he gives us an inkling of his 
great love by describing the devotion of the lover for 
the smitten lady. "She might have loved me a little 
too, had I been humbler for her sake." 

All these poems appeared in his first volume and 
were written within at least two years after his sorrow. 
He can scarcely write a poem or chant about a woman 
or retell an old myth or legend, or venture a bit of 
philosophy but he unconsciously introduces his aching 
heart. The burden is always that love has an end or 
lives but a day. 

There are other poems in the first volume where the 
personal note is present and yet very little attention has 
been called to this. 

The poem "Felise," with its quotation from Villon, 
"Where are the Snows of Yesterday," is I believe a per- 
sonal poem, based on an actual or desired change be- 
tween him and his lost sweetheart, that is, if this poem 
refers to her. Some day new data may appear to tell 



AUTHOR UNCONSCIOUSLY IN HIS WORK 79 

us whether the facts of the poem had any basis in real- 
ity. It seems that a year after the poet's love was re- 
jected by the girl, she wished to win his love back and 
that he now scorned her. The poem was written, Gosse 
conjectures, in 1864, but 1863 is most likely the date 
from the internal evidence, as she rejected him in 1862. 
Swinburne refers to the change a year had brought: 

"I had died for this last year, to know 
You loved me. Who shall turn on fate? 
I care not if love come or go 
Now, though your love seek mine for mate. 
It is too late." 

He exults cruelly; in the new situation he is re- 
venged. 

"Love wears thin, 
And they laugh well who laugh the last." 

He concludes: 

"But sweet, for me no more with you! 
Not while I live, not though I die. 
Good night, good bye." 

If she ever sought a return to the poet's affections, he 
refused to receive her. He had hoped she might seek 
to return; read the following lines from "The Triumph 
of Time," where he takes the same stand that he does 
in this poem. 

"Will it not one day in heaven repent you? 
Will they solace you wholly the days that were? 
Will you lift up your eyes between sadness and bliss, 
Meet me and see where the great lane is. 
And tremble and turn and be changed? Content you. 
The gait is strait. I shall not be there." 

No, never would he take her back. Whether the in- 
cident of her asking to be restored to his affections hap- 
pened or not is unimportant, relatively. Sappho prayed 



8o THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

to Aphrodite to reverse the situation of her love and 
make the rejecting lover come to her suppliant; a situa- 
tion that every suffering lover wants, and as we know, 
very often happens. 

One of the finest poems inspired by his love, "his 
sleek black pantheress," is the poem called "At a Month's 
End," published in 1878 in the second series of Poems 
and Ballads. He recalls the old days and his grief 
is not now so maddening. He sighs: 

"Should Love disown or disesteem you 
For loving one man more or less? 
You could not tame your light white sea-mew. 
Nor I my sleek black pantheress. 

"For a new soul let whoso please pray, 
We are what life made us and shall be. 
For you the jungle and me the sea-spray 
And south for you and north for me." 

The late Edward Thomas, killed in the war, was cer- 
tainly in error when he concluded that Swinburne did 
not directly express personal emotion and that few of 
the pieces could have been addressed to one woman and 
that he never expressed a single hearted devotion to one 
woman except in "A Leave Taking." We need not in- 
sist that one woman was always in his mind, but one 
woman inspired most of his love passages. New in- 
formation may show that other women inspired some of 
his love verse.* 

Another phase in studying the poet that has interested 
readers is whether he actually figured in the light and 
lewd loves he sang. This is rather dangerous ground, 
and one cannot delve with certainty here. Nor is this 

* Among recently published posthumous poems of ^ Swin- 
burne is one called "Southward," written no doubt with his 
love still fresh in mind. 



AUTHOR UNCONSCIOUSLY IN HIS WORK 8i 

matter so important as the question of the connection 
between a grand passion and the poems. The poet says 
in his notes in reply to critics that "Dolores" and 
"Faustine" are merely fanciful. Gosse has been cen- 
sured for not having written an honest biography and 
for having passed over certain episodes in the poet's 
life. It had often been rumoured that the poet did lead, 
occasionally, a dissipated life. In the late seventies he 
was rescued by his friend Watts-Dunton from the ef- 
fects of presumable long dissipation. After that time 
the poet's life was normal and the publication of the 
early poems of passion became a source of regret to him. 
He never again returned to that strain and incidentally 
rarely wrote work that was equal to his first period. 
It may then be true that some light loves and immoral 
women inspired poems like "Anima Anceps," "A Match,'* 
"Before Parting," "Rococo," "Stage Love," "Interlude," 
"Before Dawn," "Faustine," "Dolores," "Fragoleeta," 
"Aholibah," etc. 

Swinburne then, who of all lyric poets was the one 
deemed least to have drawn on his personal life for 
material, has done so in great measure. 

His "Thalassius" gives us his spiritual autobiography. 
At the age of fifty-five he recurred to his childhood 
scenes and gave us memories of them in his drama The 
Sister (1892) where he drew himself in Clavering. His 
The Tale of Balen, published a few years later, is also 
personal. 

In spite of the fact that the poet elaborated and gave 
us such rich verse, he wrote from the unconscious. The 
first stanzas of "A Vision of Spring in Winter" were 
composed in sleep. He awoke at night and penned the 
verses he had composed. His "A Ballade of Dream- 



82 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

land" was written in the morning without a halt. Swin- 
burne worked from impulse. 

Swinburne's affinity to Shelley calls for special 
comment. He was attracted to him, because Shelley 
too, like Swinburne, hated monarchy and the church, be- 
cause he had a mastery over melody in verse, because 
he was persecuted. He wrote to his youngest sister 
(Leith: Swinburne, Page 221): ''I must say it is too 
funny — not to say uncanny — how much there is in com- 
mon between us two; born in exactly the same class, 
cast out of Oxford — the only difference being that I 
was not formally but informally expelled — and holding 
and preaching the same general views in the poems 
which made us famous." This is a good illustration 
of the process of projection in literature. Swinburne 
was attracted to Shelley because he was most like him. 

The influence of his mother, Jane Swinburne, was a 
determining factor in his life. She guided his reading 
and took care of him and he was mentally a good deal 
like her. He was very much attached to her and no 
doubt she unconsciously is present in much of his work. 
She died in 1896 when eighty-seven years old and her 
death left him a changed man and was the tragedy of 
his later life. When she came to live with him before 
her death he wrote a poem of welcome to her, "The 
High Oaks," and when she died he wrote "Barking 
Hall." 



CHAPTER VI 

UNCONSCIOUS CONSOLATORY MECHANISMS IN 
AUTHORSHIP 



There is a large body of popular literature that may- 
be called the literature of self-deception. The author 
makes statements that are false, but which he wants 
to be true. He is aware, too, that most people like these 
sentiments, and he gives a forceful expression to them 
so that they have a semblance of truth. Dr. Johnson 
once said that all the arguments set forth to prove the 
advantages of poverty are good proof that this is not 
so; you find no one trying to prove to you the benefits 
of riches. 

The literature of self-deception, which is nearly al- 
ways optimistic and consolatory, derives its value as a 
defence mechanism. It is based on a lie but is effica- 
cious nevertheless. Of this species Henley's famous 
poem ending with lines "I am Master of my fate, I am 
Captain of my soul" is a good example. Of course no 
one is master of his fate. To this class belongs much 
of the consolatory advice found in the stoical precepts 
of Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius and Seneca. Most reli- 
gious poems and works like The Imitation of Christ may 
be included here. 

Many^writers whose lives have been sad, have written 
83 



84 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

works that buoyed them up. They have affected to 
learn much from their calamities, although they unques- 
tionably would have preferred not to have been victims 
of these misfortunes. They have pretended to exult 
over the failures of their ambitions when at heart they 
would have wished a more successful termination to 
them. Naturally literature of this kind is popular, al- 
though any vigorous intellect can see through the fal- 
laciousness of the reasoning in a poem like "The Psalm 
of Life" or in the writings of the syndicate authors in 
our newspapers. 

All the literary works wherein the precious and valued 
things in life are decried, wherein asceticism, death and 
celibacy are vaunted, are usually unconsciously insin- 
cere. The writer cannot have certain things and he 
bolsters himself up by pretending he is better off with- 
out them. 

In examining a literary work we should always find 
out what the author's real thoughts must be, arid npt 
assume that they are what he claims them to be. 

Eulogies of pain and the praise of the advantages of 
misfortune are forced, and though the literature abound- 
ing in such sentiments may aid some, it will only irri- 
tate those who think. 

It would be interesting to collect passages from the 
works of writers who give us such ideas and inquire 
what motive prompted them. It is not very difficult to 
unravel the unconscious in these cases, especially if we 
know something of the writer's life. 

Take the following lines from "Rabbi Ben Ezra" by 
Browning: 

"What I aspired to be, 
And was not, comforts me." 



UNCONSCIOUS MECHANISMS 85 

No doubt these lines, put in the mouth of the Rab- 
bi, were a consolation that Browning administered 
to himself in his days of obscurity. It could not be 
possible that he really meant it. He wanted his 
work to be read and he wanted to have the name of 
poet. While it is not to the credit of a poet to seek 
popular applause by trying to do commonplace work, 
still a poet of value is anxious to be recognised as such 
by some people. He is not comforted that he does not 
attain this end; on the contrary, he is disappointed. 
And while it is always best to do one's utmost and to 
be resigned if one fails, it does not follow that the man 
should be satisfied with his mishap. The lines of Brown- 
ing are a confession of regret for failure. 

Then the various passages in the same poem seeking 
to show the advantages of age over youth merely tell us 
that after all the poet was really bemoaning his lost 
youth. Love and recognition came to him late in life, 
and as his youth was embroiled with some unsatisfac- 
tory love affairs and as he was not recognised as a great 
poet, we cannot say that Browning had an altogether 
happy youth. He would have preferred to become 
young again but to spend his youth more happily than 
he had done. He also no doubt had unconsciously be- 
fore him the praises sung by poets of youth, and recalled 
Coleridge's beautiful plaint for his own departed youth, 
in the poem "Youth and Age." Browning really agreed 
with the sentiments of that poem, but after all what was 
the use of regrets? One might as well pretend that age 
was the better period of life, and one would then pos- 
sibly be able to enjoy it. He wrote then, when past 
fifty, to counteract his real feelings, the lines: 



86 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

"Grow old along with me! 
The best is yet to be, 
The last of life for which the first was made." 

Much of Browning's optimism was forced. 

The most famous example of consolation for the mis- 
eries of old age is Cicero's discourse On Old Age ad- 
dressed to Atticus when they were both about sixty- 
three years old, Cicero puts his own arguments about 
the advantages of old age into the mouth of Cato who 
is eighty-four years old. Cato tries to prove beneficial 
the four assumed disadvantages of old age; these are 
that it takes us away from the transactions of affairs, 
enfeebles our body, deprives us of most pleasures and 
is not very far from death. 

Cicero really tried to console himself for the loss of 
his youth. Most assuredly he would rather have been 
young. The objections that he finds against old age 
are not satisfactorily removed by him and he does not 
state them all. Even though he does show old age has 
its pleasures, we read between the lines that he is aware 
that his body is subject to ailments, that he is shut off 
from certain pleasures, that he has not the energy or 
health or zest of life he had in youth and that he dreads 
death; we perceive all his arguments are got up to rid 
himself of these painful thoughts. People as a rule 
do not write on the disadvantages of youth; these are 
taken for granted. Rich and successful men who are 
old would generally be young again and give up some 
of the advantages of old age. Not that many people 
have not been happier in age than in youth, not that 
age is not free from those violent passions to which 
youth is subject, but youth still is preferable to old 
age and all the arguments in favour of it will not make 
a man want it to be reached more quickly. 



UNCONSCIOUS MECHANISMS 87 

Carlyle was the author of many statements meant to 
salve his own wounds. One of his famous hobbies was 
to attack people who seek happiness, no doubt because 
that is the very thing he himself sought his whole life 
long. He told them to seek blessedness. Let us ex- 
amine the following passage from one of the most 
famous chapters of Sartor Resartus, entitled "The Ever- 
lasting Yea." 

"I asked myself: What is this that, ever since earli- 
est years, thou hast been fretting and fuming, and la- 
menting and self-torturing, on account of? Say it in 
a word; is it not because thou art not happy? . . . . 
Foolish soul I What act of legislature was there that 
thou shouldst be happy? . . . Close thy Byron; open 
thy Goethe. . . . there is in man a Higher than love 
of Happiness: he can do without happiness, and in- 
stead thereof find Blessedness." 

We can discern under all this Carlyle's despair be- 
cause he is not happy. Teufelsdrock, who is Carlyle's 
picture of himself, had a sweetheart who was stolen by 
a friend. One may be sure that Teufelsdrock would 
have given up his ideal of blessedness if this misfor- 
tune could have been prevented. No doubt, like Car- 
lyle, he had dyspepsia, was poverty-stricken and had 
a hard path to travel to success. Of course he would 
have wished to have had a good stomach, to be free 
from money troubles, and to be recognised. All these 
fortunate circumstances were not his. He had to say 
to himself, "Away with them. I am better off without 
them." But it is certain he never could have really 
felt this way. We learn from Carlyle's recently pub- 
lished letters, written to his future wife in his court- 
ing days, that he was unhappy for personal reasons; be- 
cause she coquetted with him or jilted him, because he 



88 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

was unsuccessful, because he was poor, etc. He whined 
only too much though no doubt he had reason therefor. 
He is full of the Byronism which he affected to despise. 

It is likely that Browning and Carlyle, who remain, 
nevertheless, among the greatest English writers, may 
have thought at the time of writing that they believed 
what they said. But psychoanalysis teaches us that we 
do not really know our own minds. We may think 
we are honest when we really are deceiving ourselves. 

A writer may seek an effect which is attained by laud- 
ing a moral sentiment. Did not Shelley profess to be- 
lieve in immortality of the soul, in his elegy on Keats, 
Adonais, while we know from a prose essay of his that he 
did not believe in immortality? 

We should try to learn the whole truth from the frac- 
tional part of it or unconscious lie that authors give us. 
We will find a personal background for all their the- 
ories, a past humiliation or a present need, which will 
explain the origin of the ideas professed. 

When we read in his Autobiography that Spencer 
ascribes his nervous breakdown to hard work, if we are 
Freudians we figure that Spencer has not told us 
the truth. We know that most cases of breakdown 
have had a previous history, usually in some love or 
sex repression. We are aware that Spencer was a bach- 
elor who never had his craving for love satisfied, and 
probably led a celibate life. This led to his nervous 
troubles. This is merely one instance where by the aid 
of psychoanalysis we can read more than the author 
reveals. 

There are many instances where critics who had never 
heard of psychoanalysis still applied its principles. In 
his essay on Thoreau, Stevenson dilates on Thoreau's 
cynical views on friendship. When Stevenson inserted 



UNCONSCIOUS MECHANISMS 89 

the essay in his Familiar Portraits he wrote a little in- 
troductory note, in which he shows he penetrated the 
secret of Thoreau's views. Thoreau was simply seeking 
to find a salve for his own lack of social graces. His 
strange views and personality made him almost an im- 
possible friend. 

n 

Even a great writer like Goethe deceived himself, as one 
can see by a famous passage in his autobiography as to 
why Spinoza appealed to him. In the fourteenth book he 
says that his whole mind was filled with the statement 
from the Ethics, that he who loves God does not desire 
God to love him in return. Goethe desired to be dis- 
interested in love and friendship, and he says that his 
subsequent daring question, "If I love thee, what is 
that to thee?" was spoken straight from his heart. 

Great as Goethe's intellect was, he could not perceive 
that his partiality for this passage from Spinoza was due 
to the consolation he found in it for unreciprocated love. 
This particular sentiment from the profound work of 
that philosopher is really one of the least valuable parts 
of the work. It was probably inspired unconsciously 
by the philosopher's rejection at the hands of Miss Van 
den Ende, whom he meant to marry. The Ethics was 
finished when the author was about thirty-three. Spi- 
noza, who led the life of a celibate, sublimated his re- 
pressed love into philosophic speculation. When he 
wrote the passage in question he was consoling himself 
for loving a girl who did not care for him. The mech- 
anism was: "I am not such a fool after all, because I 
love a girl who does not love me; why should I even 
want her to do so; don't we love God, and yet don't 
want Him to love us in return?" Goethe, having gone 



90 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

through the harassing experience that led to the writing 
of Wertker, repeated the mental processes that Spinoza 
must have gone through in creating the sentiment about 
our not desiring God to love us in return. 

Goethe imagined that love could be disinterested, and 
this is really not so. The lover seeks a return of his 
love, for that is just what love means. Those novels 
where sacrificing lovers turn over the women they love 
to rivals, as in George Sand's Jacques and Dostoievsky's 
Injured and Insulted, do not show disinterested love, 
but merely obedience to an abstract idea with which the 
whole individual's psychic and physical constitution is 
not in harmony at all. Goethe tried to be different from 
what he really was. The question, "What is that to 
thee if I love thee?" with its corollary that the love 
need not be returned, did not come, as Goethe thought, 
straight from his heart. His interest in Spinoza's senti- 
ment, just as the creation of it by Spinoza, was a self 
curative process for grief because of disposed love. All 
psychoneuroses are unsuccessful efforts to purge one's 
self of repressed feelings. 

Now let us investigate the sentiment itself, and we 
will see under analysis it has no value intellectually. 

As a matter of fact, there is no warrant for Spinoza's 
assumption that man does not desire that God love him 
in return. All religion is based on the principle that 
God loves us and cares for us more than he does for 
other animals, or more than he does for other tribes or 
religious sects. Prayers are made to God to make us 
happy and prosper and satisfy our wants. This is tanta- 
mount to saying we want His love. If God, or Nature, 
as Spinoza understood Him, was only a malevolent force 
and gave us undiluted pain, we would not love Him or 
her. Again, man does not love God or Nature in the 



UNCONSCIOUS MECHANISMS 91 

sense that he loves a woman, so even if Spinoza were 
right that man does not desire to be loved by God or 
Nature in turn, it is because that love does not promise 
the pleasure derived from the returned love of the 
woman. 

The truth is that both Spinoza and Goethe would 
have preferred to have had their love returned, and 
had such been the case, they would not have occupied 
themselves with this fatuous idea. 

m 

Then there is the reaction-impulse and the infantile 
regression in writers. Many books are written by their 
authors to counteract certain impulses. They feel that 
their course of conduct or thought was reprehensible, 
and they try to make amends for this. They become 
fanatical converts; they show a regression to a fixed 
period in their own lives, and return to the religion of 
their parents. Writers who in spite of being unable to 
believe in religious dogmas, miracles, ascetic notions of 
morality, nevertheless return in later life to the religions 
advocating these, belong to this class. The leading of a 
wicked life, but more often the influence of childish 
memories of a religious household, are responsible for 
such conversions. The converts feel young again; pleas- 
ant recollections of the mother or father and delicious 
memories of school days play a part in the process. 
Many free thinkers who have had a theological training 
never really outgrow this. 

Tolstoi's conversion was due to the wild days he 
spent as a young man. He was a proud aristocrat, and 
gave play to all his instincts; he was an atheist and 
pessimist, he was a gambler and a rake. He shows us 



92 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

his evolution in his various novels and autobiograph- 
ical works. He finally came to deify ignorant peasants 
and advocated extreme non-resistance. He worshipped 
poverty, practised self-abnegation, and derogated sex. 
But, after all, his latter views are but the reactions to 
the life he led in youth, and a regression with some 
changes to views he was taught in childhood. 

The same is true of Strindberg, who as a young man 
was an atheist, and a believer in free love; through the 
sufferings brought about by his three marriages and his 
attacks of insanity, he "turned." He looked with dis- 
approval upon his early ideas, attributed much of his 
misery to his entertaining them; hence he discarded 
them, and returned to the religious views he held as a 
child. But his greatest work belonged to the period 
when he held liberal ideas. 

Dostoievsky was really always a devout orthodox 
Christian, even in his early revolutionary days. His 
great suffering in Siberia chastened him, and made him 
find a welcome religion in the religion of suffering, a 
guide in Christ who suffered. He is always at pains in 
his later novels to prove the existence of a personal 
God — a fact which makes one suspect that he had his 
own doubts, and that he tried to rid himself of them 
by his writing. Being also an epileptic, he would, partic- 
ularly in these attacks, digress to infantile fixations and 
they would lead him to worship his sublimated "Father 
in Heaven." 

There are many who naively insist that these men, 
when they went back to the belief of childhood days, 
had at last come to see the truth. The point of view 
taken is dependent on whether a man considers belief 
in the dogma of a religion a fetter or an asset. 

In English literature we have as examples of reac- 



UNCONSCIOUS MECHANISMS 93 

tions, both in religion and politics, the Lake School poets, 
Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey. All of them later 
turned away from the republican and pantheistic ideas 
of their youth. The reason Southey fought so bitterly 
against free thinkers like Byron and Shelley, is that in" 
youth he, like them, also was attached to the ideas of 
the French Revolution. He became a Tory of Tories, 
showed disapproval of all the leading thinkers of the 
time, of men like Hazlitt, Lamb and Hunt. Liberal 
ideas, it is well known, have no greater enemy than a 
renegade liberal. Southey was sufficiently pilloried by 
Byron in the Vision of Last Judgment, and the psychol- 
ogy of his reaction has been drawn in the portrait of 
him by Hazlitt in The Spirit of the Age, while the gen- 
tle Lamb has administered to him a rebuke in the im- 
mortal Letter of Elia to Robert Southey. 

When one reads the theological works of the gifted 
Coleridge, such as The Aids to Reflection and some of 
the Table Talk, and ponders on the spectacle of this 
former Spinozist and Unitarian, speaking in defence of 
dogmas that have not one logical argument in their 
favour, one is amazed. Poor Coleridge! What a wreck- 
age of the human intellect is often made by private 
misfortunes. Here was the greatest literary critic and 
one of the subtlest poets England ever had, talking 
about supernatural miracles as though they were not 
even to be questioned. "The image of my father, myj 
reverend, kind, learned, simple-hearted father, is a reJ 
ligion to me," he once said, thus giving us the key tO 
his reaction. The elder Coleridge was a vicar, and died 
when the poet was nine years old. The poet became 
religious because of his repressed childish affection for 
a religious father who influenced him. 

As for Wordsworth, he was sufficiently punished for 



94 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

his reaction, in that in later life he was never able to 
do creditable literary work. And Shelley's poem, "To 
Wordsworth," and the lines of Browning beginning, 
"Just for a handful of silver he left us," generally 
thought to refer to Wordsworth, were deserved rebukes. 

The reaction impulse plays a great role in shaping 
the destinies of literary men. It sometimes sweeps an 
entire age and gathers all before it. This happened 
in France in that period of French Literature which 
Brandes called the Catholic Reaction, when Chateau- 
briand, De Maistre, Bonald, and others were influential. 
It again occurred in the same country in the early nine- 
ties when leading free thinkers like Bourget and Huys- 
mans went from the extreme radical position to Catholi- 
cism. Only great writers like Zola and Anatole France 
were able to keep their heads clear. Now most of these 
converts really were always at heart religious. They 
never emerged from the associations of their religion even 
though their intellects would not enable them to believe 
some of its dogmas. Unconsciously Bourget and Huys- 
man were always Catholics in feeling. 

Hawthorne wrote a story in which he imagines some 
of the dead English poets of the early decades of the 
nineteenth century continuing to live, and living a life 
in complete reaction to their youthful lives. He pic- 
tures the atheist Shelley as becoming a Christian, a pre- 
diction that might have come true; for had Shelley died 
at seventy instead of thirty, he might have changed, as 
there was some similarity between his ideas of "per- 
fectibility" and those of Christianity. This is, how- 
ever, a mere surmise, as one of the last letters he wrote 
contains an attack on Christianity. 

There are numerous instances of the reactionary im- 
pulse in literature. Shakespeare, who was of plebeian 



UNCONSCIOUS MECHANISMS 95 

origin, often attacked the common people in his plays. 
He wrote favourably of nobility, and had little sympathy 
with democracy. Nietzsche, who was gentle personally 
and suffered much pain in his life, wrote in defence of 
cruelty, wished to do away with pity, sought to kill the 
finer emotions, and thought invalids should be left to 
die instead of being allowed to be cured. He was cre- 
ating a system in philosophy whose ruling ideas were 
the very opposite to those which governed his private 
life. He could not even witness another's pain. Pro- 
fessor Eucken tells a story illustrating Nietzsche's gen- 
tleness. When that philosopher of the superman orally 
examined a student who did not answer correctly, Nietz- 
sche would prompt him and answer the question for 
him, as he was unable to witness the student's discom- 
fiture. Bums gave us some poetic outbursts against the 
crime of seduction, probably because he himself was 
guilty of it. Thackeray, who was hopelessly in love with 
a married woman, Mrs. Brookfield, and was rejected by 
her, affected to be very cynical at disappointed lovers and 
ridiculed them in his Pendennis. Cicero, who loved glory, 
wrote against it. 

So men are often the very opposite of what they ap- 
pear in their books, but this is done also unconsciously, 
although sometimes the effort may be deliberate. Con- 
verts are fanatics. Reformed drunkards are the most 
convinced prohibitionists. The severest moralists and 
Puritans are often former rakes. The man who rails 
most bitterly against a vice may often be suspected of 
struggling against temptation with it. 

Similarly, the fact that professors in exact sciences 
and devotees to a philosophy of materialism, often be- 
come the most ardent exponents of spiritualism, may be 
due to an unconscious reaction on their part. No doubt 



96 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

the desire to believe that the dead can still communi- 
cate with us is the real basis of this belief. It seems 
that scientists like Lodge, Crookes, Barrett, Wallace 
and Lombroso, who have done so much to spread spir- 
itualism, should be the last persons to embrace absurd 
beliefs so at variance with the principles which these 
men profess in their scientific work. 



CHAPTER VII 

PROJECTION, VILLAIN PORTRAYALS AND CYNICISM AS 

WORK OF THE UNCONSCIOUS 

I 

Renan drew himself in his Lije of Jesus, as one may 
see by comparing it with his Memoirs of My Youth. 
He projected himself upon Jesus and wrote a life of 
Renan instead. He portrayed in the volume his in- 
dividual traits and gave his own characteristics to Jesus. 
His picture of Jesus is not a true one. Unconsciously 
he read into Jesus's life predominating features of his 
own personality, and also of his sister Henrietta's. He 
emphasised Christ's love of flowers, his indifference to 
the external world, his obsession with a Utopian ideal 
and a mission in life. He found in Jesus a love for the 
simple and common folk, and a partiality towards 
women and children. He admired Jesus's exaltation of 
beggars and sympathised with his making poverty an 
object of love and desire. He saw no external affecta- 
tion in Christ, who was bound only to his mission, and 
who was a revolutionist besides. Jesus had only some of 
the qualities Renan attributed to him. 

"Never did any one more loftily avow that disdain 
of the 'world' which is the essential thing of great things 
and great originality," said Renan of his Master. Thus 
was he describing himself unconsciously and presenting 
the plan of life which he, Renan, had followed. 

97 



98 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

If we read the analysis of Jesus's character and teach- 
ings in the last three chapters of the Life of Jesus and 
then turn to Renan's analysis of his own character in 
his autobiography, we shall see that the author had pro- 
jected himself upon Jesus, as it were, and identified him- 
self with the Master he worshipped. He finds in him- 
self, he tells us in his autobiography, love of poverty, 
indifference to the world, devotion to his mission, af- 
fection for the common people, esteem for simplicity, 
contempt for success and luxury, fondness for poverty, 
dislike for the world of action, such as mercantile life — 
in short, he dwells on all the meek and lowly traits that 
he has, and arrogates to himself Jesus's practices, and 
attributes to his master idiosyncrasies of his own. In an 
unguarded moment he forgets his customary modesty 
and gives us the clue to himself in these words: "I am 
the only man of my time who has understood the char- 
acter of Jesus and of Francis of Assissi." In this bit 
of self-portraiture is the whole secret of his Life of 
Jesus. Critics were attacking him for drawing a false 
picture of the founder of Christianity, but it did not 
dawn on them why the portrait was distorted. "Jesus 
has in reality ever been my master," says Renan. 

How strongly Renan identified himself with and pro- 
jected himself upon Jesus may be seen from the fact 
that the memoirs written at the age of sixty are in the 
same tone as the Life of Jesus, published twenty years 
earlier. He also tells us in the memoirs how the Life of 
Jesus originated. From the moment he abandoned the 
church, he says, with the resolution that he should still 
remain faithful to Jesus, the Life of Jesus was mentally 
written. 

A few more traits that may be mentioned, which he 
felt he had in common with Jesus, were his aversion to 



VILLAIN PORTRAYALS AND CYNICISM 99 

incurring intimate friendships. There is reason to be- 
lieve that Jesus did have friends, but Renan, who did 
not cultivate friendship (though he had a good friend 
in Berthelot), tried to persuade himself that Jesus was 
also like him in this regard. Again Renan deemed him- 
self a dreamer, like Jesus, who was, however, also a man 
of action. Renan also saw his own effeminacy and 
kindliness in Jesus, who, however, vented himself of 
vigorous utterances. 

Renan also fancied he found in Jesus his own inher- 
ent hostility to Jewish culture; his own anti-Semitism. 
As a matter of fact, Jesus owed much to Jewish culture, 
though he wanted the Jews to abandon some of their cus- 
toms and to revise the Mosaic laws; the feeling among 
Jews was that Jesus, instead of being anti-Semitic, 
wished to be their leader and Messiah and King. Renan 
reads into Jesus his own anti-Semitism. Those who are 
familiar with Renan's writings are aware of the many 
slurring and contemptuous references he makes to the 
Jews. In fact, one of the paradoxes of his life is that 
with his liberality and gentleness, with his abandoning of 
all Christian dogma, he entertains a bitter feeling to- 
wards the people who gave him his ideal man, the people 
who originated, even by his own admission, many of 
Jesus's maxims. Renan states that Jesus profited im- 
mensely by the teachings of Jesus, son of Sirach, of 
Rabbi Hillel and of the synagogue. Renan unjustly 
made Jesus have his own failing, anti-Semitism. 

Strangely enough, Renan's treatment of the story of 
Jesus (outside of his giving Jesus traits of his own) has 
been very largely a Jewish one. It is for this reason 
that all devout Christians were offended. Renan treated 
Jesus as a man and refused to credit all the legends con- 
nected with him. Renan did not believe that Jesus was 



100 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

bom without a human father; that he was a member of 
a Trinity; that he could perform supernatural miracles. 
In short, Renan did not accept Jesus as a son of God, 
though giving him traits almost divine and free from 
human frailties. The picture of Jesus in the life is an 
idealised Jewish portrayal. 

Renan serves as one of the best examples of a free 
thinker remaining a devotee of his faith, though discard- 
ing all the tenets on which it rests. His early religious 
training had a permanent influence on him, and he was 
a Christian all his life, even though he differed with 
the church. In one of his last and most profound es- 
says, the "Examination of the Human Conscience," he 
gives us a confession of his faith. Here he appears as a 
pantheist, but ventures incredible guesses that there 
may be a supernatural. His church mind plays havoc 
with his Spinozism, and we see his early infantile in- 
fluences. Intellectually at times he stands high, higher 
it may be said without irreverence than his master 
Jesus, since he had at his command a knowledge of 
science and philosophy with which Jesus was unfamiliar. 
The greatness of Renan appears in his Philosophical 
Dialogues, in his Philosophical Dramas, in his Future of 
Science, in the Anti-Christ and other essays and books. 
When he moralises he is a monk; when he speculates on 
philosophic and scientific subjects, he is a thinker. 
George Brandes's Renan as a dramatist is an excellent 
study.* 

Yet literature scarcely offers such an instance of a 
man projecting himself upon a historical character. Such 
a projection is similar to the seeking, in an unusual de- 
gree, by nervous people of moral shelter and consola- 
tion in some other person. The reposing of Renan on 
♦ International Quarterly. 



VILLAIN PORTRAYALS AND CYiSfia^M idi, 

Jesus gives us an insight into the birth of worship of 
religious founders. Pfister, a disciple of Freud, and 
himself a Christian pastor, says: "In the divine father- 
love, he, whose longing for help, for ethical salvation, is 
not satisfied by the surrounding reality, finds an asylum. 
In the love for the Saviour, the love-thirsting soul which 
finds no comprehension and no return love in his fel- 
lowmen is refreshed." 

A complete psychoanalytic study of Renan, which 
this essay does not pretend to be, would make a fuller 
inquiry into his relations with his mother, his affection 
for his sister and her influence on him and his never- 
swerving admiration for the priests who were his early 
teachers. He has left tributes to all of them. They 
ruled his life. In his unconscious a fixation upon them 
was buried. His love for them kept him a Chris- 
tian, when intellectually he was a free thinker. They 
are present in his Life of Christ, and the psychoan- 
alyst can see them guiding the pen of Renan. They are 
always with him. Had they not loved him and he them 
so intensely, had he not inherited so strongly those 
meek, effeminate and kindly traits, his temperament 
might have been as unchristian as his intellect. 

We see why the extreme liberal and the orthodox 
Christian were offended by his Life of Christ, and why 
hundreds of pamphlets and articles were written against 
it. It was really a portrait of the author, and the un- 
conscious Christian in him puzzled the radicals, while 
his conscious intellect seemed like blasphemy to the 
devout followers of dogmas. He gave his own idealised 
traits to his hero, and the freethinkers complained Renan 
made Jesus a god anyhow, while it seemed an insult to 
the Christians that mere moral virtues instead of divin- 



I02 THE^ERGTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

ity should be thrust upon Jesus, who they felt did not 
need Renan's compliments. 



Authors also draw on the unconscious for their immoral 
characters. In Pere Goriot Balzac drew himself in Eugene 
Rastignac, but the author is also present in the villain of 
the novel, Vautrin or Jacques Collins, who appears like- 
wise in Lost Illusions and The Splendors and Miseries of 
Courtesans. Vautrin, it will be recalled, tries to persuade 
Eugene to marry a girl whose father will leave her a mil- 
lion francs, if Eugene consents to have her brother, the 
more likely heir, despatched by a crony of Vautrin's. 
Thus Eugene would be enabled to become rich immediate- 
ly instead of being compelled to struggle for years. Vau- 
trin wants a reward for his services. Vautrin's words 
are really the voice of Balzac's unconscious; Eugene's 
inner struggles are Balzac's own; and though the young 
student rejects the proposition he takes up Vautrin's 
line of reasoning unconsciously, even though to drop it. 
Vautrin's Machiavellian viewpoint was at times uncon- 
sciously entertained by Balzac himself, though never 
practised. We know Balzac always sought for schemes 
of getting rich to pay his debts, and was always occu- 
pied with thoughts of his aggrandisement and ambition. 
He no doubt unconsciously entertained notions that 
riches, love, fame might be attained by violating the 
moral edicts of society; these ideas may have obtruded 
but a few seconds to be immediately dismissed. But 
once they made their appearance they were repressed 
in Balzac's unconscious, and emerged in the characters 
of Vautrin and other villains who are the author's un- 
conscious. 



VILLAIN PORTRAYALS AND CYNICISM 103 

Balzac understood that vice often triumphed and that 
the way of virtue was often hard. "Do you believe 
that there is any absolute standard in this world? De- 
spise mankind and find out the meshes that you can slip 
through in the net of the code." Vautrin here gives 
Balzac's inner unconscious secret away. The author 
was not aware that he drew upon himself unconsciously 
in depicting Vautrin. This, of course, does not mean 
that Balzac agreed with Vautrin. We remember Eugene 
shouted out to Vautrin, "Silence, sir! I will not hear 
any more; you make me doubt myself." The author 
merely got his unconscious into one of his leading vil- 
lains, just as Milton did in Satan, as Goethe did in 
Mephistopheles. 

Vautrin is Lucien de Rubempre's evil influence also, 
and Balzac saw how disastrously he himself might have 
ended his life had he heeded his unconscious, his Jacques 
Collin. 

Since literature is often depicting struggles and con- 
flicts with our evil instincts, it deals directly with the 
material of the unconscious; for the unconscious that 
psychoanalysis is concerned with is that which springs 
from repressions forced upon us by society as well as 
by fate. In literature the unconscious appears under 
various symbols and disguises, just as it does in dreams. 
The devil, for example, is but our unconscious, symbol- 
ised. He represents our hidden primitive desires 
struggling to emerge; he is the eruption of our forbidden 
desires. His deeds are the accomplished wishes of our 
own unconscious. We are interested in the devil be- 
cause he is ourselves in our dreams and unguarded mo- 
ments. 

The fascination that the villain has for us is because 
our unconscious recognises in him a long-forgotten 



104 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

brother. True, our moral sense soon prevails, and we 
rejoice when the rascal is worsted, but he represents 
the author's unconscious as well as our own. Any one 
who has read of the thoughts and conduct of Raskolni- 
koff in Crime and Punishment , or of Julian Sorel in Red 
and Black, or of George Aurispa in The Triumph of 
Death, will see that much of the authors themselves, or 
rather their unconscious selves, is drawn in these crimi- 
nals. Dostoievsky, Stendhal and D'Annunzio all said 
to themselves in writing: "I too might have ended like 
these characters. I did think their thoughts and a slight 
circumstance could have led me to the crimes they com- 
mitted." 

The man who hates a vice most intensely is often 
)f^ just the man who has something of it in his own nature, 
against which he is fighting. The author sometimes pun- 
ishes himself in his novel by making the character suffer 
for engaging in the course of life that the author him- 
self followed. There is always a suspicion, when a 
writer raves most furiously against a crime or act, that 
he has committed that deed in his unconscious. 



y^ 



\aX' 



m 

The reason La Rochefoucauld, author of the Maxims, 
is called a cynic is becmisc he reveals the unconscious, 
at the bottom of which is self-love. He knows that there 
is great egotism, nay something akin to depravity, at the 
root of our emotions. He shows us much in our psychic 
life that many of us never suspected was there. When 
he brings it forth we grow indignant and yet say to our- 
selves, "How true!" 

Let us examine a few of these maxims at random and 
note the insight into the unconscious that the author 



VILLAIN PORTRAYALS AND CYNICISM 105 

displays. He understood that repression was at the basis 
of our unconscious. Take the following sentence: "Wit 
sometimes enables us to act rudely with impunity." 
This saying anticipates Freud's analysis of wit in his 
Wit and the Unconscious. The Frenchman digs up 
in a sentence the hidden strata of the unconscious. La 
Rochefoucauld recognised that we must curb our primi- 
tive instincts, repress our private wishes, and leave our 
innermost thoughts unexpressed in order to adapt our- 
selves to people. The world moves by concealing for 
charity's, and often decency's, sake its unconscious. 
"Men would not live long in society," says the Maxims, 
"were they not the dupes of each other." 

He knew that our primitive instincts could be sub- 
dued only when they were not too strong, and that vir- 
tue was practised when it was not difficult to do so. 
"When our vices leave us we flatter ourselves with the 
idea we have left them." "If we conquer our passions 
it is more from their weakness than from our strength." 
"Perseverance is not deserving of blame or praise, as it 
is merely the continuance of tastes and feelings which 
we can neither create nor destroy.'^ 

He understood the great part played by vanity in the 
unconscious. The most modest of us are, in our uncon- 
scious, vain. "When not prompted by praise we say 
little." "Usually we are more satirical from vanity than 
malice." "The refusal of praise is only the wish to be 
praised twice." 

La Rochefoucauld was aware of the unconscious 
"immoral" instincts in virtuous women. Though we may 
dislike him for some of his remarks, he, however, gave 
utterance to a truth when he asserted that women do 
not want their love or sex feelings repressed any more 
than men do. "There are few virtuous women who are 



io6 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

not tired of their part." "Virtue in woman is often 
love of reputation and repose." Freud went a step 
further and showed that women usually have neurosis 
from repressed sex. 

The Frenchman also understood the role played by the 
unconscious in friendship, and that is the reason he made 
his well-known statement, "In the adversity of our best 
friends we always find something which is not wholly 
displeasing to us." He might have been less brutal had 
he stated his meaning directly in words to the follow- 
ing effect: When we strive for the same goal as our 
friend and he reaches it and we do not, his success 
hurts our vanity and we would almost prefer that he 
too had failed. We are pleased by his success only if 
we would profit thereby. 

La Rochefoucauld's statement, "It is well that we 
know not all our wishes," will be appreciated by students 
of psychoanalysis. 

To conclude, La Rochefoucauld always read between 
the lines in deeds he saw. He fathomed the hidden 
motives of our conduct. Note the great powers of ob- 
servation he displayed in the following: "Too great a 
hurry to discharge an obligation is an ingratitude." 
"The gratitude of most men is but a secret desire of re- 
ceiving greater benefits." 

He recognised that life is often possible only by a 
process of self-deception, but that too much of such de- 
ception is responsi^Dle for individual and social evils. 
There are times when the truth about our unconscious 
must be told, no mktter how painful. 



CHAPTER VIII 

GENIUS AS A PRODUCT OF THE UNCONSCIOUS 



In studying the psychology of authorship by means of 
psychoanalysis we learn something about the unconsci- 
ous growth of an author's book ; this phase of its process 
has not been universally admitted. We are often told 
certain incidents gave rise to the writing of a volume, but 
they were only the precipitating factors. The book had 
shaped itself unconsciously in the author's mind long be- 
fore; it only gets itself projected in an endurable form. 
So though Stevenson tells us that the shape of a map of 
an island took his fancy and gave birth to Treasure 
Island, we know as a matter of fact that he had, as a 
boy, for many years been leading mentally the life of the 
treasure hunters. Stevenson himself relates how the 
brown faces of his characters peeped out upon him from 
unexpected quarters. The map just set him in action. 

Let me sum up briefly the growth of a literary per- 
formance from a psychoanalytical standpoint. Let us 
assume that the author at some time of his life was 
placed amidst circumstances the reality of which jarred 
on him, offended his sense of beauty, wrecked his happi- 
ness and frustrated his most cherished desires. Deprived 
of a world that he wished to inhabit, he built one in 
his fantasies and day dreams, one that was the very 

107 



io8 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

opposite of that in which he was constrained to dwell. 
If he was toiling in barren labour he pictured himself at 
congenial work, or leisure; if he dwelt in squalor and was 
deprived of necessities, he mentally placed himself in 
beautiful surroundings, rolling in luxury, and in posses- 
sion of property he prized most. If he had no one to 
love he formed an ideal for himself, with whom he lived. 
If the loved one did not return his love he depicted him- 
self as wed to her. 

That literature is influenced and created by the wishes 
of the character or author may be seen readily. A tale 
of Ernest Renan sheds light on this theory, and also 
serves as a valuable illustration how neurotics and insane 
people derive their illnesses from unfulfilled love desires, 
and how they build phantasies where those wants are 
satisfied. Pleasant pictures appear in day dreams, but 
these often assume such reality that the victim cannot 
tell the fanciful from the actual. In the first sketch in 
his autobiography, called The Flax Crusher, Renan relates 
a pathetic story of a daughter of a flax crusher who lost 
her mind because her love for a priest was unreturned. 
She unconsciously carried out her wishes in her actions 
and thoughts. She would take a log of wood and dress 
it up in rags and rock and kiss the artificial infant and 
put it in the cradle at night. She imagined that this 
was her child by the priest. Thus she stilled the maternal 
urge. She fancied that she was keeping house for him. 
She would hem and mark linen, often interlacing his and 
her own initials. She finally was led to commit theft 
from his home. This story was taken from real life. 
The artist who is frustrated in love acts as this girl; he 
imagines that his love is being fulfilled and that he is 
living with the loved one. 

A classic example of fantasy building is Charles 



GENIUS AS PRODUCT OF UNCONSCIOUS 109 

Lamb's Dream Children. Rejected by the sweetheart of 
his youth, Ann Simmons, he pictured himself married 
to her and surrounded by their children and talking to 
them and entertaining them. He projected a world as 
it might have been, and as he desired it for himself; he 
wakes up from his day dream — the children were merely 
those of his imagination. 

Day dreams then are the beginning of literary creation. 
In them we create a world for ourselves, and we make 
actual people fit into that world. After such continual 
living in a fictitious realm a writer seeks to express 
himself, and if he is an artist, to give it endurable 
form. If the dreamer dwells too long in one imaginative 
abode he may lose the faculty of distinguishing the real 
from the ideal. He may become subject to hallucinations 
and become utterly unbalanced as did Renan's flax 
crusher's daughter. 

The literary man generally saves himself from neurosis 
by putting his dream into artistic shape; though writing 
of their deams and troubles has not prevented artists 
from going mad, nor continuing to brood over the 
troubles that had already inspired their works. But 
the point of difference is clearly established between the 
neurotic and the artist. One dreams on till he is res- 
cued from going mad by a physician's help, if possible; 
the other partly cures himself by self-expression, and at 
the same time gives the world a piece of art or literature, 
which consoles many, because they too have either had 
or witnessed similar troubles, or consider themselves 
possible victims to such sorrows. 

Very few English writers understood the mechanism 
of day dreams better than Dr. Johnson, as the chapter 
in Rasselas on "The Dangerous Prevalence of Imagi- 
nation" shows. 



no THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

One of the best illustrations of the psychoanalytic 
theory of authorship detailed by the writer himself oc- 
curs in a once-famous English novel, Kingsley's Alton 
Locke, published in 1850. Alton Locke tells us how he 
came to write poetry. The chapter entitled "First Love" 
recounts the process, and we learn how because he led 
a life of drudgery, he created a far more pleasant one in 
his imagination and then unconsciously sought to make 
a record of this life. 

n 

Psychoanalysis is always interested in learning ex- 
actly how literary masterpieces are bom. Just as 
it seeks to know through dreams what are some of the 
hidden secrets in the unconscious, so it tries 1j discover 
what unconscious life made the writer project his vision. 

Two of the most famous love stories of the eighteenth 
century which had a personal background, and whose 
evolution have been told by the authors, themselves, 
were Rousseau's Nouvelle Heloise (1760), and Goethe's 
Sorrows of Wert her (1774). They were the predecessors 
of the entire field of autobiographical love-lorn lugubri- 
ous literature that pervaded Europe in the early decades 
of the nineteenth century. George Brandes has shown 
how Chateaubriand, Madame de Stael, Senancour, 
Byron, George Sand and others owed much of their 
methods of recording their love troubles to these two 
novels. We to-day scarcely realise the great vogue that 
these tales at one time had. 

The authors have given us accounts of the birth of 
these novels. Both of these geniuses had been frus- 
trated in their loves; as a result they created mental 
fantasies and lived in a more pleasant world of their 
own creation, and finally^ bursting with desire for ex- 



v-v 



GENIUS AS PRODUCT OF UNCONSCIOUS iii 

pression, produced their novels. The unconscious life 
buried in them came forth and was crystallised in art. 
Rousseau's Confessions and Goethe's autobiography, 
Poetry and Truth, tell us how the novels came to light. 

In the ninth book of the Confessions, Rousseau in- 
forms us that when he reached the age of forty-five, he 
realised that he had really never enjoyed true love. As 
a result he began living in a fantastic world where his 
craving was satisfied. He realised his wishes in his day 
dreams. "The impossibility of attaining real beings," 
he says, "threw me into the regions of chimera, and see- 
ing nothing in existence worthy of my delirium, I sought 
food for it in the ideal world, which my imagination 
quickly peopled with beings after my own heart." He 
tells us how he valued love and friendship, and that he 
created two female friends according to his taste, that he 
gave one of them a lover, who was also the platonic 
friend of the other lady; that in this friend and lover 
he drew his own portrait. He imagined that there were 
to be no rivalries or pain. These fictions, he continues, 
gained in consistence. He then had an inclination to 
put on paper this situation of fancy. "Recollecting 
everything I had felt during my youth, this, in some 
measure, gave me an object to that desire of loving 
which I had never been able to satisfy, and by which I 
felt myself consumed." Here we have the secret. He 
sought in art what he had not in reality. At first he 
wrote incoherent letters, just as his feelings prompted 
him, and he thus completed the two first parts of the 
novel (which is in the form of letters) without a con- 
scious effort to make a connected work. 

At this time Rousseau, who was a married man, fell 
in love with the wife of D'Holbach, Sophia D'Houdetot. 
He loved her madly. He says, "It was not until after 



112 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

her departure that, wishing to think of Julia (his hero- 
ine), I was struck with surprise at being unable to think 
of anything but Madame D'Holbach." He now identi- 
fied the real with the ideal; he found the woman of his 
dreams. But now his troubles began. Union with his be- 
loved Countess was impossible. New emotions rose with- 
in him, as material for his novel. The work really wrote 
itself. He originally formed an ideal because he was 
not loved by any one who fulfilled that conception. 
When he discovered such a person and she was beyond 
his attainment, he imagined himself as her lover. All 
the misery he recorded had its counterpart in his personal 
experience. Without the unconscious reveries which he 
indulged in as a result of his needs and tribulations, 
the novel would not have been written. 

After the story was published, women worshipped the 
author. It was recognised that he was the hero of the 
book, and it was generally believed that the charac- 
ters were not fictitious. The novel gives us an account' 
of the real Rousseau at least as fully as the Confessions 
themselves, where facts are not always truthfully re- 
ported. 

Goethe has recorded just as minutely the origin of his 
Sorrows of Werther. He traces the book back to his 
love for Charlotte Buff, the betrothed of a friend of his. 
He resolved to give free play to the idiosyncrasies of 
his inner nature. He describes how he had day dreams 
and how he held mental dialogues with different people. 
He then was led to record these fancies on paper. The 
substances of his novel "were first talked over with 
several individuals in such imaginary dialogues, and 
only later in the process of composition itself were made 
to appear as if directed to one single friend and sympa- 
thiser." He became weary of life, and had suicidal 



GENIUS AS PRODUCT OF UNCONSCIOUS 113 

thoughts. He then heard of the suicide of his friend 
Jerusalem, who had been in love with a married woman. 
Goethe saw that he was really in the same position as his 
friend; his loved one belonged to another. "On the in- 
stant," Goethe goes on, "the plan of Werther was formed, 
and the whole drew together, and became a solid mass. I 
was naturally led to breathe into the work I had in hand 
all the warmth which makes no distinction between the 
imaginary and the actual." He wrote the book in four 
weeks. "I had written the little volume, almost uncon- 
sciously like a somnambulist." As a result he freed him- 
self from his suffering. The artist stepped in and cured - 
the man. Goethe illustrates the theory that artistic 
creation acts as a self-cure of a developing neurosis. 
"By this composition," Goethe wrote, "more than by 
any other, I had freed myself from that stormy element 
in which ... I had been so violently tossed to and 
fro. I felt as if I had made a general confession and was 
once more free and happy, and justified in beginning a 
new life." 

The public thought that the book was solely the his- 
tory of young Jerusalem's tragic love affair, and did not 
altogether understand that the cry was Goethe's own. 
His mental dialogues and the longings of his inner spirit 
found expression in this novel. His sufferings were un- 
decipherable by the public, he tells us, because he worked 
in obscurity. He also gave the attributes of several 
women to Lotte, and hence severzd ladies claimed to have 
been the original models. 

Thus we see how two great love stories were created 
almost unconsciously by the authors. Day dreams and 
actual love; the longing for reality, for lack of which 
imaginary situations were created ; and the putting down 
in the form of letters and dialogues the ideas and emo- 



114 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

tions that burst forth, all led to the shaping of the liter- 
ary product. 

m 

Psychoanalysis sheds some light on the nature of 
genius, and especially literary genius. But it does not 
define it within hard and fast lines. 

Literary works are largely the result of repressions 
that the author has suffered; he has been led as the re- 
sult of them to cry out his sorrow or to depict ideal sit- 
uations where such grief as his does not exist. He must 
write so that people who have had similar repressions, 
or who can imagine them, will find a personal appeal in 
the works they read. But the situations described must 
also, besides evoking an emotional appeal, stir the 
readers intellectually, so that they sympathise where the 
writer counted on sympathy. When the author writes 
only of his joys, the unconscious is also at work. 

The writer also must be a master of his art, so that 
fundamental rules of composition and outrages on com- 
^* 1 mon sense he does not violate. 

Especially when the author has discovered new fea- 
tures of his unconscious life, or has been led to present 
original and profound ideas as a result of such discover- 
ies; particularly when he moves the reader with 
intensity and evokes a passionate response, does the 
writer begin to merit the name of genius. When we say 
that a genius is a man who discovers a new truth or 
depicts beauty, we really mean that he is a man who, 
having experienced a repression, has been led to make 
certain conclusions from that event, that society has 
not wished to admit; he is a great artist when he gives 
an effective description of that repression; he is a great 
thinker when he sees certain ways by which that repres- 



GENIUS AS PRODUCT OF UNCONSCIOUS 115 

sion may be avoided, and he is a humanitarian when he 
informs the world how to attain a form of happiness 
that had been denied him. 

We thus do away with the very pernicious doctrine 
that genius is a form of degeneracy or insanity. Geniuses 
are often sufferers from neurosis, or describe characters 
suffering from them; they are not degenerates, as Lom- 
broso and Nordau would have us believe. A neurotic 
person and a degenerate one are not necessarily the same. 
The term "degenerate" is not the proper name for men 
like Ibsen or Tolstoi, no matter how repugnant their ideas 
might be to people. Nor does it follow that because 
some poets like Villon, Verlaine and Wilde had spent 
time in jail for crimes, their poems are to be stamped 
as degenerate products. While it is apparent that some 
of the author's insanity appears in works by Swift, 
Rousseau, Maupassant, Nietzsche and Strindberg, their 
masterpieces are noble works of art. 

The faculty of literary genius is not possessed by a 
few; many people possess some of its qualities. Intelli- 
gent or sincere lovers have often written love letters that 
never got into print which were stamped with the quali- 
ties of genius. Highly gifted people in private life often 
utter thoughts which if collected and published would 
constitute works that show genius. There have been 
many people who have uttered sentiments as wise as 
those found in Boswell's Lije of Johnson, or Eckermann's 
Conversations of Goethe, but the ideas were not reduced 
to writing, either by the speaker or a friend. Goethe 
once said that every genius has in his lifetime been ac- 
quainted with men who were obscure and unproductive, 
but who possessed greater intellects, more originality 
than those geniuses themselves. 

There is no dividing line between the genius and the 



ii6 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

talented or even average person, any more than there 
is a marked boundary between the normal and the ab- 
normal. 

The genius, however, always has something of the 
pioneer in him; even after his work is no longer new, 
he retains the title of genius, though there are people who 
can write better works than he. 

The world has agreed on some geniuses. Most people 
are ready to admit that a few men of letters like Shake- 
speare, Moliere, Cervantes, Goethe and Balzac were 
geniuses of the first order. But when we are concerned 
with literary men who have done good work, it is not 
easy to say whether they were geniuses, though we are 
ready enough to admit that they had the qualities that 
make up genius. 

The genius must be able to do more than write of the 
repressions which he has actually experienced; he must 
be a master of technique and means of expression. He 
must be able to describe with force and imagination, 
those repressions he has witnessed others suffer. The 
more use he makes of his unconscious, the nearer he gets 
to truth, and it has often been the lot of genius to depict 
those very emotions which society wants to be kept in 
the unconscious; and the more he draws on his uncon- 
scious, the less use he has for actual experience. 

Yet the ability to present works of human interest 
that appeal to the public does not alone constitute 
genius; otherwise many of the thrillers of the movies 
would be works of genius. Nor does the writing of sad 
tales or giving ideal pictures make genius. There must 
be an important idea, or the presentation of the emotion 
in a particularly compelling manner. Then there is 
something cumulative about genius; we expect from it a 
repetition of literary feats that is beyond the power of 



GENIUS AS PRODUCT OF UNCONSCIOUS 117 

most writers ; we are not contented with an isolated liter- 
ary effort. Still, there are poets who are regarded as 
geniuses though they have produced but one or a few 
pieces of importance. 

The literary genius then has a keen insight into the 
psychology of the repression of the emotions and can 
beautifully express this repression and make valuable 
intellectual deductions therefrom. He can vary this 
work for many years, and move people who think. 



CHAPTER IX 

LITERARY EMOTIONS AND THE NEUROSES 



The emotions that literature deals with bear a close 
analogy to symptoms in the neuroses or nervous diseases. 
Every emotional conflict, every repressed love is an in- 
cipient neurosis, and often the sufferings described in 
books are full-fledged cases of neuroses. The author 
may unintentionally draw characters suffering griefs 
which the physician can recognise as analogous to the 
cases he has observed in practice. The writer may show 
how the character cures himself of his neuroses by being 
made aware of the imconscious forces struggling within 
him, or how the sufferer effects a recovery by sublimation, 
^ or how he succumbs to his disease. 

Some authors like Rousseau in his Confessions, or 
Strindberg in his Confessions of a Fool, give us detailed 
accounts of their neuroses, though they may not always 
exactly fathom the causes. Poets have in their collec- 
tions of lyrics told us of the sufferings that they have 
personally gone through, and the trained scientist can 
see to what neuroses the symptoms described are re- 
lated. Other authors have in the guise of fictitious char- 
acters described the neuroses they have been suffering. 
Byron in his Manfred, Hauptmann in his Heinrich in the 
Sunken Bell, Shakespeare in Hamlet, Goethe in Faust, 
have told us of love repressions that were their own, and 

ii8 



LITERARY EMOTIONS AND NEUROSES 119 

these characters can be studied by critics as neurotic 
patients are analysed by physicians. 

The author may draw himself in the guise of a char- 
acter who is utterly insane, as Cervantes did in Don 
Quixote. One feels here that the author was his own 
knight; in fact, he too had a sneaking fondness for 
books of chivalry, and the familiarity that his hero shows 
with them is good evidence that Cervantes was a careful 
student of that kind of literature. He too had been 
bruised by windmills; he too found that the real did not 
coincide with his ideals. It is most likely that Don 
Quixote developed his mental illness by his abstinence 
from love, by living in fancy with the high dames he 
read about, and by cherishing an affection unrecipro- 
cated for the peasant girl he called in his madness Dul- 
cinea del Toboso. At least these factors cannot be 
ignored in the insanity he developed from 'reading books 
of chivalry. It is not improbable that Cervantes drew 
on a real woman for Dulcinea; he too had wasted affection 
on some woman, ignorant and coarse, whom he took for 
a lady of high degree. We do know that in the year he 
married, in 1584, at the age of thirty-seven, he had an 
illegitimate daughter by a certain woman. There is 
also a tradition that he had a few years previously a 
daughter by a noble lady in P.ortugal, and though this 
story is discredited, it must have had some basis in real- 
ity. However, Cervantes, though not, like his knight, 
suffering a mental ailment, must have had a neurosis on 
which he drew for the material of this novel; it was no 
doubt caused by his worship of a Dulcinea del Toboso. 

Writers like D'Annunzio and Dostoievsky have given 
us complete cases of neuroticism; they described them- 
selves in their books. Since the line between the normal 
and the abnormal psychic condition is hard to draw, and 



120 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

we all daily or at different crises in our lives overstep 
the limits, the works of literary men as a rule deal with 
those cases where the morbid and normal merge. Freud 
said that no author has avoided all contact with psychia- 
try. And he is assuredly right. Dickens's eccentric 
characters, Balzac's heroes and villains in the grip of 
great passions, neurotics like Bunyan, A'Kempis and 
Pascal, whose repressed love no doubt made them relig- 
ious maniacs; lago, Richard the Third, Macbeth, Ham- 
let, Anthony and Timon of Shakespeare, the leading 
characters of Ibsen, the unhappy Heine, De Musset, Bau- 
delaire, Verlaine, Leopardi, Carducci, Burns, Byron, Shel- 
ley, Keats, Poe and Heam can all be studied like patients 
suffering from neuroses. In fact all characters in fiction 
who suffer are related to neurotics, for sex and love is 
usually the cause of their troubles, for as Freud says, "In 
a normal sex life no neurosis is possible." The author oc- 
casionally deals with severe cases of neuroses, and the 
psychiatrists with mild ones, and their provinces are often 
the same. The writer details his case with art, and lays 
stress on the emotional phase and deduces ideas, while 
the psychiatrist gives us bare scientific analyses. "The 
author," says Freud, "cannot yield to the psychiatrist 
nor the psychiatrist to the author, and the poetic treat- 
ment of a theme from psychiatry may result correctly 
without damage to beauty." (Delusion and Dream.) 

Cases of neurosis often especially lend themselves to 
literary treatment. Think of the women sufferers in lit- 
erature like Madame Bovary, Hester Prynne, Anna Kare- 
nina, Hedda Gabler, Magda; you can always trace their 
troubles to love repressions. Fictitious characters who 
have not had a natural outlet for their love and have 
been abstinent, or have had a love disappointment or 



LITERARY EMOTIONS AND NEUROSES 121 

have suffered from aberrations of the infantile love life, 
present phases of neuroses. 

Freud has studied Jensen's novel Gradiva, and shows 
how the leading character has troubles analogous to the 
psychoneuroses, and cures himself unconsciously by the 
methods of psychoanalysis. 

Literature records many fully developed cases of 
neuroses. A story like the Fall of the House of Usher 
presents a complete case of a neurosis. Characters in 
literature who commit suicide, like Werther and Hedda 
Gabler, are victims of neurosis; sex is usually at the bot- 
tom of their difficulties. Every sufferer then in literature 
is a partly or fully developed case of neurosis; at least an 
emotional disturbance due to sex causes, akin to the neu- 
rosis, is always present. This fact is sufficient for the lay- 
men to know without their making a deep inquiry into the 
nature of these neuroses and attempting to classify them. 
Here the work of the physician begins and a penetrating 
insight into the species of neuroses described in literature 
can be made only by the psychoanalyst. 

Nevertheless, there are some cases that even the lay- 
man may recognise as soon as he has familiarised him- 
self with the Freudian views of the neuroses. In English 
the best technical books on the subject are the translation 
of Hitschman's Freud's Theories of Neuroses, Brill's Psy- 
choanalysis and Brink's Morbid Fears and Compulsions. 
Some of Freud's own essays have been translated by Dr. 
Brill in Selected Papers on Hysteria. 

Freud divides the neuroses into two classes, the true 
or actual neuroses, and the psychoneuroses. 

The true neuroses are neurasthenia and anxiety neu- 
rosis, which formerly was included under neurasthenia, 
but which Freud set off as a separate class. He calls these 
true neuroses because there are present abnormal dis- 



122 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

turbances of the sexual function, not necessarily due to 
heredity. Neurasthenia is due to excessive physical 
abuse, and the anxiety neurosis results from abstinence 
or unsatisfactory gratification. All agencies which pre- 
vent the psychic utilisation of the physical excitement 
lead to anxiety neurosis. Literature gives us cases of 
true neuroses, but they are not as frequent as the other 
class, the psychoneuroses. 

The psychoneuroses are due to repressions but date 
back to infancy; the influence of heredity is important; 
unconscious factors are at work. The child's relation 
to his parents and his infantile sex life have great in- 
fluence on his future. The crisis comes when a love 
repression in later life breaks out. The psychoneuroses 
are hysteria, compulsion neurosis, and mixed cases, 
especially anxiety hysteria. 

In hysteria the patient suffers from reminiscences, and 
his recent experiences are unconsciously attached to in- 
fantile sexual impressions. Instead of solving his love 
difficulties he builds fantasies. Certain mental impres- 
sions remain fixed. The early painful effects struggle 
to consciousness, but instead are transformed into uncom- 
mon inhibitions, by a process known as conversion. 

In compulsion or obsessional neuroses we also have 
unconscious sexual factors at work since infancy, but 
the effect of the painful idea affixes itself to other ideas, 
producing obsessions. These are transformed reproaches 
which have escaped the repression. Morbid fears, doubts 
and temptations are the result. 

The most common form of neuroses in life, and hence 
most described in literature, is anxiety hysteria. They 
partake of the nature of hysteria and the true neurosis, 
anxiety. "In these cases," says Dr. Hitschman, "the 
anxiety arises not only from somatic (physical) causes, 



LITERARY EMOTIONS AND NEUROSES 123 

but from a part of the ungratified libido which embraces 
unconscious complexes and through the repression of 
these gives rise to neurotic anxiety." The excitation is 
psychic as well as physical. 

Literature abounds then chiefly in the psychoneuroses 
and especially anxiety neurosis. 

All literature where the author is recalling old griefs 
on which he still broods, looking upon them as if they 
had happened yesterday, are related to hysteria. In- 
cessant complaints about early love disappointments, re- 
calling all the incidents, constant memories of the mother 
and of childhood days, and obstinate clinging to ideas 
and pictures that were uppermost in early life, are re- 
lated to hysteria. Byron and Heine, harking back all 
the time to their early love woes, were really sufferers 
from hysteria. Lady Macbeth, as Dr. Coriat has shown, 
was a victim of hysteria. 

We see obsessions at work in characters like Ibsen's 
Brand who aims at all or nothing. 

We find most troubles described in literature related 
to anxiety hysteria, from the childish griefs of David 
Copperfield, Maggie Tulliver and Jane Eyre, to the sad 
love experiences of the characters of Thomas Hardy. 

Literature is largely a record of the anxieties and 
hysterias of humanity. 

n 

Byron is a good example of hysteria in literature. He 
loved Mary Chaworth, and for nineteen years, from 1805, 
the date of her marriage, to his death in 1824, she 
figured in nearly all his shorter love poems. She was 
Astarte in Manfred. She is Lady Adeline in Don Juan, 



124 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

she is, no doubt, "Thyrza"; she figured as the heroines 
of his eastern tales. 

In the poem, "The Dream," he refers to the irony of 
fate that married each of them unhappily, and he de- 
scribes his grief because he never wed her. When the 
poem was published her husband was annoyed and cut 
down some trees to which reference was made in the 
poem, — "the diadem of trees" arranged in a circle. 

There are nearly fifty lyrics in which she appears be- 
yond doubt, not mentioning the bigger poems where she 
often is present. 

The last lines that Byron wrote in 1824, "I watched 
thee when the foe was at my side," refer to her: 

"To thee — to thee — e'en in the grasp of death 
My spirit turned, oh ! of tener than it might. 
Thus much and more ; and yet thou lov'st me not 
And never wilt ! Love dwells not in our will 
Nor can I blame thee, though it be my lot 
To strongly, wrongly, vainly love thee still." 

The word "wrongly" shows that Mary was married. 

She is referred to by him in his last letters. 

The "Last Words to Greece," published posthumously, 
refer to Mary, and contain the same sentiment of his 
famous poem, "Oh talk to me not of a name great in 
story," written in 182 1, and also posthumously published. 
He cares more about Mary's love than for the honours he 
would attain as hero in the Grecian War. He exclaims 
he is a fool of passion, and that the maddening fasci- 
nation of Mary can depress him low if she frowns. 

The celebrated poem to the Po River, sent May 8, 
1820, to Murray, was inspired by "private feelings and 
passions"; he wrote Murray that it must not be pub- 
lished. The river Po in the poem really refers to the 
river Trent, in England, with memories of which Mary 
was bound to him. 



LITERARY EMOTIONS AND NEUROSES 125 

There is no doubt about the fact that most of the 
early love poems of Byron relate to Mary. Critics have, 
however, failed to note her influence after the 'The 
Dream," written in the summer of 18 16, a half a year 
after his wife left him. But the reader of the later 
cantos of Childe Harold and Don Juan does not have 
to search too closely between the lines to detect Mary's 
presence. 

I think we may dispense with the theory that Byron 
was a poseur and that his passion was unreal and rhe- 
torical. Those lugubrious moods were unfortunately sin- 
cere. He suffered from hysteria, and this was connected 
with the lack of affection in infancy between him and 
his mother. He is the hero and Mary is the heroine of 
all his work. She made a neurotic out of him, and she 
is the cause of his moods when he wrote "I have not 
loved the world, nor the world me" in Childe Harold, or 
"From my youth upwards my spirit walked not with the 
souls of men," in Manjred. This seems strange to us 
who recognise that faithful love is often a pose, and that 
in real life men do not, as a rule, brood about lost sweet- 
hearts when these are married to others, and that they 
straightway marry themselves and smile over their past 
loves, in whom in many cases they could not again find 
interest. 

Byron's wife inspired only two poems, — the bitter 
"Lines on Hearing Lady Byron Was 111," and "Fare 
Thee Well"; she was also a model for two women in 
Don Juan, who are not amiably treated. His mistress, the 
Countess Guiccioli, may have been in part a model in 
Cain for Adah, along with Mary Chaworth, and she also 
inspired Sardanapalus, 

For a long time the Thyrza poems of 18 12 puzzled 
critics. They were held to be addressed to no one in 



126 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

general; there was a claim by some that they were ad- 
dressed to a man, a friend he loved. But there can be 
no doubt that Mary furnished the chief inspiration. In 
Childe Harold, Canto II-9, he refers to Mary in the line 
"love and life together fled," and in a Thyrza poem he 
uses the words, "When love and life alike were new." 
Mary Chaworth was really responsible for Byronism. 

Whether she ever committed adultery with him and 
had a child by him, as is claimed by the author of 
Byron, the Last Phase, one cannot say. 

In his four early volumes of poetry, published before he 
was twenty-one, there are many poems inspired by Mary, 
and four p>oems, written in 1805, addressed to Caroline, 
who was undoubtedly Mary, are of especial excellence. 
The poems of his youth written to her included the 
"Fragment," written after her marriage, in 1805, and 
"Remembrance," written the year after. Both of these 
poems were published after Byron's death. A pathetic 
poem. In the Hours of Idleness (1807), is "To a Lady"; 
"Oh, had my fate been linked with thine." "When We 
Two Parted" was written the following year, and re- 
ferred to Mary. In 1808 Byron wrote a series of sad 
love poems to Mary, and they were published in the next 
year, in 1809, in Hobhouse's Imitations and Translations. 
They include "Remind Me Not, Remind Me Not," "To 
a Lady," "When Man Expelled from Eden's Bowers," 
"Stanzas to a Lady on Leaving England," "Well! Thou 
Art Happy," "And Wilt Thou Weep When I Am Low," 
and "There Was a Time I Need Not Name." The six 
great poems written to Thyrza and published in 181 2, 
with Childe Harold, were "To Thyrza" ("Without a 
stone to mark the spot"), "Away, Away, Ye Notes of 
Woe," "One Struggle More and I Am Free," "Euthana- 
sia," "And Thou Art Dead and Young and Fair," and 



LITERARY EMOTIONS AND NEUROSES 127 

"If Sometimes in the Haunts of Men." Mary was as 
if dead to him, and he wrote of her accordingly. About 
the time of the Thyrza poems, 181 1 and 181 2, he wrote 
other poems to her like the "Epistle to a Friend" "I 
have seen my bride another's bride" and "On Parting 
New." In 18 13 appeared the two sonnets, "To Genevra" 
and "Remember Him Whom Passion's Power"; in 18 14, 
"Thou Art Not False, But Thou Art Fickle," "Fare- 
well! If Ever Fondest Prayer," "I Speak Not, I Trace 
Not, I Breathe Not Thy Name." In 18 15 appeared 
"There's Not a Joy the World Can Give That It Takes 
Away," and 181 6, "There Be None of Beauty's Daugh- 
ters." 

Byronism, then, was due chiefly to the poet's early 
quarrels with his mother, the separation from his wife, 
but above all his rejection by Mary Qiaworth. 

m 

Freud has told us that the idea of repression is the 
main pillar on which the theory of psychoanalysis rests. 
There has been at some time in the patient's life a seri- 
ous inhibition of some desire. There are different kinds 
of repression, the most serious of which have a sexual 
basis. But the denying oneself of the play of any 
emotions that seek an outlet, constitutes a repression. -- /'J*'"*'**'*^ 

Sex with Freud Qieans love in its broadest sense. The 
most common ir^essibn' is the inability to satisfy one's 
love, either because the person has not met any object 
upon whom to lavish his affection, or if such an individ- 
ual is found there is no reciprocation, or if the love is 
given it is later withdrawn. All these factors act in 
a repressive manner upon a person. For it must be 
understood that not only the stinting of sexual satisfac- 



128 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

tion, but the interference with all those finer emotions 
associated with it, cause a repression in the subject. 
When the emotions have been satisfied for a long time, 
and then there is a sudden cessation through change of 
heart or infidelity or death of the beloved one, the re- 
pression is very serious. It is this kind of repression 
that has produced most of the literature of the world. 

But repression includes the stinting or uprooting of 
any emotion. Great grief as the result of the death of 
any one we love of either sex, whether friend or relative, 
is a repression. The death of a loved one puts the suf- 
ferer in a worse position than the man who has been 
stinted in a great love passion. And the great elegies in 
literature have been cries of poets for the death of fellow 
writers. Lycidas, Adonais, In Memoriam and Thyrsis 
are examples. The authors here suffered repressions in 
the loss of brother poets. 

The grief which seems to be the greatest of all, that 
following on the death of a beloved child, is an instance 
of the most intense repression on the part of a parent. 
Here there is nothing really sexual, but the death of a 
child and the consequent agony to the parents is a far 
greater repression than any purely sexual one. Hugo's 
famous elegies on the death of his daughter which appear 
in the Contemplations are among the greatest poems of 
this kind. In America we have had a few poems by 
Lowell, and a famous elegy by Emerson, The Threnody, 
in which the loss of children is mourned. 

If there were no repression, there would be little lit- 
erature. 

The varieties of repressions are as numerous as the 
emotions to which we are subject. For the inability to 
satisfy any emotion is a repression; the deprivation of 
an emotion long gratified, the conquering of a habit or 



.^^Wi/r^-'Wvt 



LITERARY EMOTIONS AND NEUROSES 129 

the struggle for activity of a partially extinct emotion, 
are repressions. The feeling of loneliness or homesick- 
ness, which has given rise to much good literature, shows 
repressed emotion. The wish to wreak revenge or to 
punish evil or to do away with injustice or to devote 
oneself to the following of an ambition or the pursuit of 
a certain kind of labour, are all symptoms of repressions. 



IV 

Psychoanalysis starts with the assumption that the 
entire past in a man's life, beginning with the first day 
of his birth, is always with him and is really never for- 
gotten. That which has seemed to pass out of the 
haunts of memory, has become part of our unconscious, 
and is often revived in dreams. Nothing is really ever 
forgotten. De Quincey understood this and discourses 
on the subject in his Confessions of an Opium Eater and 
thus anticipates an important modern psychological dis- 
covery. 

Longfellow said, "Let the dead past bury its dead." 
Ah, if it only could! Ghosts of sorrows and griefs that 
we thought laid away still revisit us even in our wak- 
ing hours. They stalk before us and open up closed 
wounds and we learn that these are not yet healed. They 
awaken memories of agonies that again smite us; they 
make us hearken back to unkind words dealt us, to suf- 
fering inflicted, to injustice done. Shocks which time 
had made obtuse are revived; we reap the harvest of 
anxieties garnered in our hearts; and we discover that 
the old despair has not altogether vanished but still oc- 
casionally gnaws us. 

The dead rules the living; forgotten incidents, soul- 
wrecking mistakes, chance misfortunes still dominate us. 



130 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

We recall the mortification of a decade or two ago and 
as its details are resurrected, we again live through the 
madness of past years. Prejudices are thus built up, 
unreasonable indeed. We become averse to a face that 
reminds us of a countenance belonging to a person who 
troubled us. 

The old poverty still haunts us in our present pros- 
perity; memories of unpleasant toil in the past may 
make us shrink in terror in our newly found leisure or 
congenial labour. Mark Twain describes how in his 
prosperity he would dream that he had to return to 
the hated lecture platform or that he was again a pilot 
on the Mississippi River. Past solitude may still send 
its roots down to the present and leave us lonely in so- 
ciety. He who has known a starved body or many un- 
fulfilled desires, he who has been the victim of ridi- 
cule or persecution or never before been encouraged or 
sympathised with, remembers the past only too well, 
even when the world honours him with recognition. 

Impressions are strongest in youth and hence molest 
us in old age. The finer our nerves, the less easy is it 
to forget. The mother who has lost a child cannot 
forget the misfortune even after other children are born. 

It is life's grimmest tragedy that we carry within us 
ghosts of our old days — ghosts which take us by sur- 
prise with their vigour. They mock us at their will; 
we are tormented unawares; we travel about with them 
and cannot shake them off. They stand beside us wheij 
we love; they take the savour out of our food; they 
dangle at our footsteps when we go to the house of 
mirth ; they trail us in ghastly pursuit long after we have 
emerged from the house of mourning. Hence when the 
poet sings and the philosopher speculates, when the story- 
teller gives us a tale, unconsciously those old ghosts are 



LITERARY EMOTIONS AND NEUROSES 131 

with him and get between the lines of his writings. An 
unseen spirit seems to move his pen and he tells more 
than he had desired and he gives voice to emotions that 
he had sought to suppress or regarded as long since 
buried in a sepulchre that was impenetrable. But the 
dead passions and tear stained griefs come gliding forth 
and pierce all barriers and dictate to him. They even 
wish to be remembered, to be made as enduring in art 
as in life. They never weary of uttering their sen- 
timents; they pursue the human race to eternity. 
And when we read of the troubles of man whether in 
the Bible or the Iliad, they are familiar often to us be- 
cause they are our own. The author cannot escape the 
past and he always opens up more channels of his heart 
than he has suspected. His work shows that his old 
sorrows rise up like the phoenix from its own ashes. 
His ghosts appear in his art; the fires that were thought 
smouldering are lighted and we as readers are caught in 
the flames and are purged in them. 

Psychoanalysis tries to rid us of the evil influences 
of the past by making us aware of the unconscious dis- 
turbances. 



CHAPTER X 

THE INFANTILE LOVE LIFE OF THE AUTHOR AND ITS 
SUBLIMATIONS 



Those who are familiar with the theories of Freud 
are aware that one of his most important discoveries is 
that the child before the age of puberty has a sex or 
love life of its own. As he puts it, it is absurd to 
imagine that sex enters suddenly at the age of puberty 
just as the devils in the New Testament were supposed 
to enter the swine. Freud regards the child's sucking of 
its thumb as a manifestation of infantile sexuality. In 
his Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex he 
studies the sexual life of the child. This theory which 
met with much opposition is beginning to be accepted. 
The studies of Moll, Havelock Ellis, and Helgemuth con- 
firm Freud's views. ' - - 

The value of the theory is in this: It shows that the 
nature of our later emotional and especially our love life 
is far more dependent upon the nature, aberrations, in- 
hibitions, sublimations, developments and transforma- 
tions of our infantile sex life, than we ever in our wild- 
est dreams imagined it to be. Here in childhood are 
laid the seeds of our future emotional life. Early re- 
pression or seduction or bad training influences our later 
lives. These facts are recognised by many trained par- 
ents who refuse to over-fondle their children or to do 

132 



INFANTILE LOVE LIFE OF AUTHOR 133 

anything that may awaken a sexual activity too prema- 
turely. 

Freud's idea is of value to the literary critic for it 
shows that the characteristics of an author's work may 
be traced back to his infantile sex life. As a rule we 
know little about the lives of literary men when they 
were children, but we can often judge what the infan- 
tile sex life must have been from the traits appearing 
in the writers' literary performances. 

Inversion or homosexuality can be traced to the child's 
love life. As infants we are bi-sexual in our pre-disposi- 
tions. Children display sentimental friendships for 
members of their own sex, as we all know. Even in 
later life in each sex there are remnants of the other 
stunted sex, breasts on the man and hairy faces on 
women. Freud has given us a very interesting but by 
no means full explanation of the origin of inversion. The 
abnormal development is favoured by the disappearance 
of a strong father in early childhood, and by the over- 
attachment to the mother at the same or earlier time. 
The love for the mother is soon repressed and the boy 
identifies himself with her and loves other boys like 
himself. He returns to that self-love which is a sec- 
ond stage after auto-eroticism in the infant, and is 
known as narcissism. He wishes to love those boys as 
his mother has loved him. He may like women but he 
transfers the excitation evoked by them to a male ob- 
ject, for they remind him of his mother and he flees from 
them in order to be faithful to her. He repeats through 
life the mechanism by which he became an invert. 

The fact then is that homosexualism is an abnormal 
development from the infant's love life. It is in the germ 
in all normal people, especially in those capable of in- 



134 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

tense friendships. It is naturally abhorrent to us when 
it vents itself in any abnormal relations. 

The sublimated homosexualism which we find in lit- 
erature is that which gives way to outbursts of friendly 
devotion, and intense and passionate grief at the loss 
of a friend; it is at the root of the idea that a man 
should lay his life down for his friend. Then there is 
the real inversion which the world rightly stamps as 
immoral. 

A few examples of literature where the homosexualism 
of the author's unconscious is present are Shakespeare's 
Sonnets, Tennyson's In Memoriam and Whitman's Cala- 
mus. These works show what capacities their authors 
had for friendship. It is the habit of some intellectual 
homosexuals to try to interpret these works as indicative 
of homosexual practices, as an excuse and consolation to 
them in their own unfortunate condition. Whitman 
wrote to John Addington Symonds in response to an en- 
quiry about the Calamus poems that he would prefer 
never to have written them if they gave any one the in- 
ference that he either practised or tolerated homosexu- 
alism. 

Two poets of recent years who, we know, practised 
homosexualism, each of whom also served jail terms, 
were Paul Verlaine and Oscar Wilde. There were critics 
who saw that certain passages in Wilde's novel The Pic- 
ture of Dorian Gray, published about five years before 
he went to jail, pointed to the homosexual proclivities 
of the author. His curious interpretation of Shake- 
speare's sonnets also shows these. It is possible that 
some of the love poems written by Verlaine and which 
are supposed to be addressed to women were really writ- 
ten to Arthur Rimbaud, the poet he loved. This is a 



INFANTILE LOVE LIFE OF AUTHOR 135 

practice indulged in by homosexual poets to avoid 
suspicion. 

The classic stories of ideal friendship are those of 
David and Jonathan, and Damon and Pythias ; the most 
widely known essays in ancient literature discussing 
homosexual love as a legitimate pursuit are in the dia- 
logues on love by Plutarch and by Plato. Theocritus 
and the Greek Anthology authors refer to homosexual 
loye. n 

^ The only interest' the subject has for the psychoana- 
lytic critic of literature is in tracing the connection be- 
tween the works of authors where homosexual remnants 
in the form of extreme friendships are present and their 
infantile sex life. 

Freud's monograph on Leonardo da Vinci is the best 
study we have of a homosexual artist. 

It appears then that the bisexual tendency which is 
in infancy in all of us, in later life may lead, where 
it does not become absolutely norm.al, to actual homo- 
sexuality, or to a sublimation of this early inverse tend- 
ency; one of the manifestations of this sublimation be- 
ing literary products in which friendship is exalted. 



There are other perverts whose vices in later life can 
be traced to the infantile sex life. These are sadists, 
masochists, exhibitionists and voyeurs. The child's sex 
life takes place through the pleasures which it creates 
for itself in the erogenous zones, which are sensitive areas 
in any part of the body. It gratifies itself mainly on 
its own body; it is autoerotic. But the sexual life soon 
derives pleasure through other persons as sexual objects. 
There are also components or partial impulses, which 



136 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

are: for causing cruelty to others (sadistic), for deriv- 
ing pleasure from pain to itself (masochistic), for show- 
ing itself shamelessly (exhibitionistic), and for peeping 
at others in nude state (the voyeur's instinct). As a 
rule these impulses are sublimated very early, but if they 
persist the perversions govern the individuals for the rest 
of their lives. Where they are sublimated we have as 
a result some of the most essential features of our mod- 
ern cultural institutions. 

The child who continued shameless for a few years 
may become very vain, and as an author write indecent 
literature. The child who was cruel may later in life 
love contests and competitions, and write books where 
cruel scenes or virulent abuse of people abound. The 
infant who derived pleasure from pain inflicted on it may 
be interested in solving intricate problems that as a 
man annoy him with a demand for solution, and he 
will torture himself in solving them. He also may be 
a conformist and find pleasure in crucifying himself 
upon the rack of the church and the state and the home; 
or become a martyr for an idea. As a writer he would 
depict martyrs or indulge in self-commiseration. 

Literature shows sublimations of these impulses and 
also gives evidences of the authors' perverse tendencies 
where these impulses have not been sublimated; they 
may contrive to exist or be buried in the unconscious. 

There are many literary men who have been per- 
verse in their tendencies in later life without knowing 
it. Often the man who merely thinks he is fighting 
Puritanism in art when he shows a tendency to describe 
the nude only, or to describe people in compromising 
positions, is both an exhibitionist and voyeur. These 
impulses have been suppressed in him by civilisation and 
he finds an outlet for his unconscious by his art. Such 



• 



INFANTILE LOVE LIFE OF AUTHOR 137 

literature is not so much immoral as indecent. A lit- 
erary man may become an exhibitionist in his work so 
as to give play to an impulse he cannot otherwise gratify. 
A writer may write exhibitionistic books for money or 
to attract attention or for fun, but his work shows that 
psychologically he has never completely suppressed the 
exhibitionistic or peeping tendencies of his childhood. 
Like the child he is without shame. The feature of 
the cheap and lascivious literature that is written merely 
to pander to certain tastes is just in these traits. 

But the traits of the exhibitionist and voyeur are found 
more or less in much of the good literature of the world. 
In the cases of works, however, like the Arabian Nights, 
Rabelais, Chaucer, the novels of Sterne, Fielding and 
many others where great genius, intellect and honesty are 
displayed, the liberal minded critic is willing to smile 
and pass over these exhibitionistic blemishes. In the cases 
of the older works these are due to the general looseness 
in speech of the times. 

The application of psychoanalytic methods puts then 
in a new light much of the so-called immoral literature. 
In much of the indecent comic literature, like the Res- 
toration dramatists, Balzac's Droll Tales, Boccaccio's 
Decameron and La Fontaine's Tales, the object is to 
arouse laughter by making a person accidentally exhibit 
himself. The author stiil finds an outlet for his repressed 
exhibitionism. There is a distinction between this litera- 
ture and the "immoral" literature of a writer like Ibsen, 
who merely differs with the current morality and ques- 
tions it, and who therefore seems immoral to the con- 
ventional man. 

Again there is a distinction between exhibitionism in 
literature and real immoral literature, where an author 



138 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

tries, for example, to defend sexual crimes like rape or 
seduction. 

Exhibitionism then as we find it in literary men 
points to infantile practices that were never completely 
suppressed and are finding an outlet. It is true, other 
motives may enter into the work. There may be a 
disgust on the part of the writer at his fellowmen's hypo- 
critical and prudish standards of modesty and shame, 
and he may write to counteract these. But the exhibi- 
tionism of writers like Apuleius, Petronius, Gautier or 
Zola does not interfere, nay, sometimes enhances the ar- 
tistic value of their works. 

Another form of sublimation of exhibitionistic traits 
leads to works in which the author is always boasting 
or showing off, directly or indirectly. Sometimes the 
sublimation process is not complete and we have ex- 
amples of the exhibitionistic traits alongside of the ego- 
tism. The reader will at once think of Montaigne's 
Essays and Rousseau's Confessions, two of the greatest 
works in the world's literature. Among ancients two of 
the vainest men were Cicero and Caesar, whose writings 
show that exhibitionistic traits of their infancy were 
strong. 

We here may consider the effects of infantile sexual 
investigation. Freud says its activity labours with the 
^^ desire for looking, though it cannot be added to the 
elementary components of the impulses. Many readers 
may refuse to follow Freud here, where he concludes 
that the great desire for knowledge in later life may 
be traced to this infantile sexual curiosity. But that 
there must be some connection cannot be doubted. A 
child who has never displayed any curiosity as to where 
it came from must be one in whom the desire for knowl- 
edge has not been and probably never will be strongly de- 



INFANTILE LOVE LIFE OF AUTHOR 139 

veloped. The child is the father of the student man. 
Freud asserts in his study of Leonardo da Vinci that 
there are three sublimations in later life of this curi- 
osity, the most important and rarest being where a pure 
scientific investigation replaces the sexual activity and i3 
not occupied with sexual themes. Thus he explains the 
scientific work of Leonardo and his chaste life. 

m 

Let us now take up the other two partial impulses, 
sadism and masochism, noted by Freud, and see their 
effect on the literary work of a man in later life. 

"The repression of the sadistic impulse," says Dr. 
Brink, "produces not its annihilation but merely its 
transfer from consciousness to unconsciousness. And 
there, withheld from the neutralising influence of con- 
scious reasoning, the impulse and the phantasies derived 
from it are not only preserved without deterioration but 
may even grow in vigour and intensity. Thus, despite 
the fact that in many instances the individual's conscious 
life is apparently singularly irreproachable, nevertheless 
this life is lived coincidently with an undercurrent of 
impulses of anger, hate, hostility and revenge and their 
corresponding phantasies" {Morbid Fears, page 291). 

This would account for the tales of horror we find in 
Poe, Kipling and Jack London. To-day we do not al- 
ways assault or kill oar eDeiiiies. Literary men do so 
by depicting scenes in literature where this is done. Jack 
London describes fist fights in which he is always de- 
feating his enemies. It is said that in real life he boasted 
of his abilities as a fighter. 

Pfister, in his Psychoanalytic Method, formulates a 
law from an earlier work of his, as follows: "The re- 



140 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

pressed hate of certain individuals forms phantasies out 
of suitable contents of experiences, either actual or imag- 
inary, according to the laws of the dream-work, by which 
procedure it creates for itself imaginary gratification. 
This gratification of complex comes about through the 
mechanism of a disguised wish, directed towards the in- 
jury of the hated person, being represented in the con- 
tent of the waking dream as realised." 

This explains the literature of hatred and how authors 
come to put their enemies in books and poems. Such 
works are traceable to the sex sadistic instincts of child- 
hood. We find sadism in books reeking with curses. 
Ovid's Ibis, directed against the person who was to blame 
for his exile, is a good example ; it is one of the most bit- 
ter invectives in literature. We also understand now the 
significance of the imaginary punishments inflicted by an 
author upon his enemies. The severe chastisement in- 
flicted by Dante in his Inferno upon his enemies repre- 
sents the poet's wishes carried out in his imagination to 
gratify him for his inability to fulfil his repressed hatred. 

Literature abounds in hostile and satirical portrayals 
of the author's enemies. In ancient Greece we have 
many examples, the best known probably being the cari- 
cature of Socrates by Aristophanes, in the Clouds. 

Elizabethan literature, especially the drama, gives us 
portrayals of fellow authors. Ben Jonson attacked the 
dramatists Marston and Decker in The Poetaster (1601), 
and they retaliated in Satiromastix. The most familiar 
example in English literature of an abuse of enemies is 
Pope's Dunciad. Then we have Byron's poem "The 
Sketch" directed at the maid he considered responsible 
for his wife's desertion of him, and Shelley's bitter 
diatribe "To the Lord Chancellor" against Lord Eldon, 
whose decree deprived the poet of his two children. 



INFANTILE LOVE LIFE OF AUTHOR 141 

Richard Savage's poem "The Bastard" against his alleged 
mother for neglecting him, her illegitimate son, is not 
as well known as it used to be. An author who was 
past master at the art of lampooning his enemies was 
Heine, and his attacks on Count Platen in the Pictttres 
of Travel are among the most bitter in literature. All 
these attacks follow one principle; the author finds an 
outlet of his repressed hatred, and the desire for venge- 
ance not being always possible in a physical sense, in 
modern times gives rise to phantasies of vindictiveness. 
The sadistic impulses of childhood are the sources of such 
literary works. 

Take the portrayal of Thersites in the second book of 
the Iliad. This notorious character was surely some real 
person whom the author knew and despised and on 
whom he wreaked vengeance by drawing him. He was 
some man of Homer's own time, centuries after the 
Trojan War, and his type is as common to-day as it 
was in the days of Homer. The poet no doubt felt 
a grievance against some prattler and nonentity he knew, 
and pilloried the man for posterity; the personal note 
appears throughout the whole passage. Thersites is 
described as ill-favoured beyond all men, bandy-legged, 
lame, round-shouldered, largely bald. He tries to re- 
buke his betters, and Odysseus admonishes him severely, 
calling him most base of the Greeks, telling him not to 
have the names of kings in his mouth and threatening 
to strip and beat him. Thersites received a welt on the 
back and sat down, crying. Then notice how Homer puts 
his personal feelings still more into the mouth of the Greek 
who laughed and said that Odysseus had done many 
great deeds but this is the best he had done in that he 
had stayed this prating railer. Homer thus punished some 
man he did not like. It is rather odd that those who 



142 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

maintain the theory of the impersonality of the epic 
poem do not apply a little knowledge of human nature 
in studying literature, as this is often of more value 
than scholarship. 

Lists may be compiled of nineteenth century novels, 
where the authors drew as villains their enemies. Often 
these are fellow authors. Dostoievsky put Turgenev 
into The Possessed in an unamiable light, under the 
character Karmazinoff. George Sand introduced lovers 
of hers with whom she had parted in her novels, and 
Chopin and De Musset have been drawn by her for 
us. Balzac righted his grievance against his critic Jules 
Janin by putting him in the Young Provincial in Paris. 
The motive of vengeance figures considerably in litera- 
ture, though at times a malevolent mischievous instinct 
drives the author on, as when Dickens drew Leigh Hunt 
under the character of Harold Skimpole in Bleak House. 
Sadistic instincts are of course primitive, and where in 
ancient times a man might have put his enemy out of 
existence, to-day he can kill him only in imagination. 
The man does not have to be a personal enemy, but may 
be some character in real life who represents an idea or 
follows a course of conduct that the author thinks repre- 
hensible. Demosthenes, Cicero, Milton, Swift and the 
author of the Junius letters knew how to castigate their 
enemies. Hugo's attacks on Napoleon in his Chatiments 
and Napoleon the Little are among the most bitter in 
literature. 

An excellent analysis of hatred is found in Hazlitt's 
Pleasure of Hating, where he shows hatred is a real in- 
stinct and needs satisfaction — it is a remnant of sav- 
age days. Hazlitt's attack on Gifford presents many 
opportunities for the study of the psychology of hatred. 

There are other cases of sublimated sadism in prac- 



INFANTILE LOVE LIFE OF AUTHOR 143 

tically all literature where pain is described. The 
author displays a craving to see people suffer even 
where he sympathises with them and he satisfies that 
craving by drawing them in their agonies. Take Flau- 
bert's keen interest in describing the torture and suf- 
ferings physically inflicted on Salammbo's lover Matho. 
There is hardly anything more sadistic in literature than 
the conclusion of Salammbo, 

Sadism is often sublimated into interest in contests. 
One of the most ancient examples we have of such sub- 
limation is in Pindar's Odes, where contests in Greek 
games are described and the victors praised. We have 
sadism, in fact, in all tales of competition where some 
one is vanquished. 

The sadistic trait is the source of the glee with which 
people watch some one in a moving picture being beaten 
or hurt. It is the cause of the pleasure and interest we 
find in reading of executions, battles and physical suf- 
fering. There is nothing strange in tracing all this to the 
delight we had as children in torturing animals. This is 
a partial sexual impulse and is sublimated in most of 
us in later life and finds expression in our literature. 

It is held that masochism is usually found side by 
side with sadism. Literature is also rich in sublimated 
masochism. Many authors are apparently only happy 
in their woe. They find delight in torturing themselves 
and in recounting their sufferings. Many of them were 
not as unhappy as they persuaded us to believe. The 
whole school of woe that had its origin in Rousseau and 
that was prominent in the early decades of the nine- 
teenth century was full of sublimated masochism. 
Hence it has been called insincere. Byron and Cha- 
teaubriand were regarded, though not justly, as affect- 
ing woes they never really felt. Some of the sonneteers 



144 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

who imitated the Italians before and even during the 
Elizabethan period wrote about woes they never felt. 
This is, however, not the usual thing, and the greatest 
Elizabethan sonneteers like Shakespeare, Spenser and 
Sidney described real troubles. 

Another phase of sublimated masochism is the at- 
tempt to torture one's self to solve puzzles and prob- 
lems, and vex one's self more for the sheer delight in 
unravelling difficult situations than for the pursuit of 
knowledge. Note how children like to solve puzzles 
in newspapers. Poe, who had the sadistic instinct in 
sublimation, also had the masochistic impulse. We are 
familiar with his interest in reading cryptograms and 
with his paper on the subject. We remember his essays 
on studying persons' characters from their autographs. 
His stories of ratiocination like the Gold Bug, the Mur- 
der in the Rue Morgue, the Purloined Letter are ex- 
amples of sublimated masochism. His Dupin, the de- 
tective, is an example of a man who likes to annoy 
himself. Sherlock Holmes is the best known modern 
example. Indeed the interest in tales of mystery and 
detective stories shows the power of the masochistic in- 
stinct in human nature. 

Still another example of sublimated masochism is 
found in stories and plays where the idea of self sacri- 
fice and penance figures. Dante's Purgatorio is a good 
illustration of the author's masochistic tendencies as the 
Inferno is of his sadism. He who tortures himself 
whether to follow the laws of society or to fight them 
is masochistic. Hence the tales of martyrs and heroes 
and idealists all betray the sublimated masochistic im- 
pulse. Both the rebel and the conformist, because they 
embrace torture, one might say almost willingly (though 
they really cannot help it), are masochistic. All litera- 



INFANTILE LOVE LIFE OF AUTHOR 145 

ture describing these types show that the author has a 
keen interest in this satisfaction in one's suffering, and 
are the results, if Freud is right, of the author's infantile 
delight to suffer, which became later sublimated. 

Rousseau describes the pleasure he received from 
beatings, and this masochism is seen in his Confessions, 
where he tells us of his woes with apparent enjoyment 
in them. 

All this is significant. Freud says: "Children who 
are distinguished for evincing special cruelty to animals 
and playmates may justly be suspected of intensive and 
premature sexual activity in the erogenous zones; and 
in a simultaneous prematurity of all sexual impulses, 
the erogenous sexual activity surely seems to be primary. 
The absence of the barrier of sympathy carries with it 
the danger that the connections between cruelty atid 
erogenous impulses formed in childhood cannot be broken 
in later life." ( Three Contributions — Page 54.) 

There is then a connection between the sadism and 
masochism of early infancy which is related to sex, and 
the sublimations in art of those impulses. People who 
can hate fiercely or are vindictive or have a tendency 
towards cruelty or who like to torture themselves are 
as a rule of strong sex impulses. 



IV 

There are other phases of infantile sexual life that 
rule a person for life. One of these is that stage be- 
tween the first period of the child's first sex life known 
as autoeroticism when it finds pleasure from its own 
body, and the period when it selects an object to love 
apart from itself. This stage is called narcissism be- 
cause then the child loves itself. Many people never 



146 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

grow out of this; we are all more or less narcisstic. 
This narcissism is the basis of egoism in literature and 
is no doubt related to extreme individualism. Stirner, 
Nietzsche, and Stendhal, who rank intellectually among 
the greatest writers the world has had, are largely nar- 
cisstic. 

Walt Whitman would form a good subject for study 
of the manner in which infantile narcisstic sex life 
is sublimated in later life into individualism. 

The following are passages from the Song of Myself, 
showing that the narcisstic infantile life of Whitman 
was sublimated into good poetry and philosophy: 

"While they discuss I am silent, and go bathe and admire 

myself. 
Welcome is every organ and attribute of me, and of any man 

hearty and clean, 
Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall 

be less familiar than the rest . . . 
Having pried through the strata, analysed to a hair, counsel'd 

with doctors and calculated close, 
I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones. . . . 
Divine am I, inside and out, and I make holy whatever I 

touch or am touch'd from, 
The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer, 
The head more than churches, bibles and all creeds. 
H I worship one thing more than another it shall be the 

spread of my body, or any part of it, 
Translucent mould of me it shall be you! . . . 
I dote on myself, there is that lot of me and all so luscious.'* 

His early narcissism did not lead him into selfishness 
but taught him self-respect. 
He says in the Song of Myself: 

"I am an acme of things accomplished and an encloser of 

things to be. . . . 
I chant the chant of dilation or pride; 
We have had ducking and deprecating about enough. . . ." 



INFANTILE LOVE LIFE OF AUTHOR 147 

In From Blue Ontario's Shore, he writes: 

"It is not the earth, it is not America who is so great, 

It is I who am great or to be great, it is you up there or any 

one. ... 
Underneath all, individuals, 

I swear nothing is good to me now that ignores individuals, 
The whole theory of the universe is directed unerringly to 

one single individual — namely to You. . . . 
I will confront these shows of the day and night, 
I will know if I am to be less than they. . . . 
I will see if I have no meaning, while the houses and ships 

have meaning." 

The following lines from / Sing the Body Electric is 
another example: 

"O my body ! I dare not desert the likes of you in other men 
and women, nor the likes of the parts of you; 

I believe the likes of you are to stand or fall with the likes 
of the soul and that they are the soul. 

I believe the likes of you shall stand or fall with my poems, 
and that they are my poems. . . ." 

Where Whitman shows sublimations of these infantile 
phases he deduces important and profound views of life 
to make us happier. He questions whether the giving 
up of some of the heritages we surrendered to cultural 
demands has not made us also part with some valuable 
emotions and whether we have not denied ourselves 
rights we ought to resume. He makes egoism respect- 
able, and deduces individualism from it. 



I also wish to mention that sexual aberration, in which 
an object unfit for the sexual aim is substituted for the 
normal one, and is known as fetichism. We need not 
go into the causes of it, but psychoanalysis has shown 



148 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

that smell plays a part. We often find poets celebrating 
the eyebrows, the gloves, and other objects connected 
with the women they love. Though a certain amount 
of fetichism is normal in love, literature gives us in- 
stances where it amounts to an aberrated passion in the 
author. There is much fetichism in Gautier's stories, 
where he dwells on the fetichistic characteristics of his 
heroes in whom he describes himself. Then those poems 
where the sparrows and dogs of the beloved are described 
as if the author were in love with them because of their 
associations, those tales where too much attention is 
given to the dress of the heroines, all have fetichistic 
traces. 

A phase of sex life in the child that is significant for 
the future is the sublimation that occurs in the sexual 
latency period between the third and fifth year, when 
the sentiments of shame, loathing and morality appear. 
These are reaction formations to the perverse tendencies 
of infancy. They are brought about at the cost of the 
infantile sexuality itself. These sublimations take place 
in the beginning in this latency period, and if they do 
not occur there is an abnormal development and the re- 
sult is the latter perversions of life. When we say a 
man has no moral sense, we mean not only that he 
does not know the difference between right and wrong 
but that he is not disgusted or shamed at sexual con- 
duct that is held in abhorrence by most people. Hence 
those authors who have this indifference to perverse 
moral conduct in their work, never as children in the 
latency period developed shame or disgust. All this is 
again evidence of the influence of the sublimations in 
childhood upon later literary work and view points. 
Girls as a rule develop this sense of morality earlier 
than boys, and this no doubt accounts to some extent 



INFANTILE LOVE LIFE OF AUTHOR 149 

for the prudishness of most women writers. The de- 
velopment is greater and we therefore find no women 
Rabelais in literature. 

It is no exaggeration then to say that the infantile 
sex life governs the psychology of the future writer and 
the nature and tendency of his work. 



CHAPTER XI 

SEXUAL SYMBOLISM IN LITERATURE 



The repression of the libido includes the damming 
and clogging up of all the emotional concomitants that 
go with sexual attraction and make up the feeling called 
love. Whenever then sex or libido is referred to in 
psychoanalysis the word has the widest meaning. The 
man who loves a woman with the greatest affection and 
passion, without gratifying these, suffers a repression of 
the libido, as well as the man who satisfies certain pro- 
clivities without feeling any tenderness or love for the 
woman. In the emotion felt towards the other sex called 
love, in which admiration, respect, self-sacrifice, tender- 
ness and other finer feelings play a great part, there is 
consciously or unconsciously, however, the physical at- 
traction. If this is totally absent the emotion cannot be 
called "love." What differentiates our feelings towards 
one of the opposite sex from those felt for one of the 
same sex (assuming there are no homosexual leanings) 
is the presence of this sexual interest. Love then must 
satisfy a man physically as well as psychically. It is a 
concentration of the libido upon a person of the opposite 
sex, accompanied by tender feelings. 

Hence when we read the most chaste love poem, we 
see what is the underlying motive in the poet's uncon- 

150 



SEXUAL SYMBOLISM 151 

scious. He may write with utter devotion to the loved 
one and express a wish to die for her, and though he says 
nothing about physical attraction, we all know that it is 
there in his unconscious. It is taken for granted that 
a man who writes a real love poem to a girl wants to 
enjoy her love. And when the poet complains because 
he is rejected or deceived, or of something interfering 
with the course of his love, we are aware also that his 
unconscious is grieved because his union is impeded or 
entirely precluded. The suffering is greater the more 
he loves, for his finer instincts, as well as his passion, 
are prevented from being fulfilled. 

Let us take at random a few innocent poems and test 
the theory. There is Ben Jonson's well known toast, 
"Drink to me only with thine eyes." He tells how he 
sent Celia a rose wreath, that she breathed on it and 
sent it back to him. 



"Since when it grows, and smells, I swear. 
Not of itself but thee." 

Odour is an important feature, it is well known, in sexual 
attraction. In this poem the poet, after having received 
the returned rose breathed upon by Celia, smells her 
perfume, which now submerges the natural fragrance 
of the rose. In other words the poet's unconscious says 
that he wishes to possess Celia physically. He is talk- 
ing symbolically in the poem. 

There is the song in Tennyson^s "The Miller's Daugh- 
ter," beginning "It is the miller's daughter." The poet 
says naively enough that he would like to be the jewel 
in her ear in order to touch her neck, the girdle about 
her waist ("I'd clasp it round so close and tight"), 
and the necklace upon her balmy bosom to fall and rise; 



152 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

"I would lie so light, so light." The unconscious sex- 
ual feelings here are only too apparent. The symbols 
of the earring, girdle and necklace are unmistakable. 
The poet is saying in a symbolical manner that he would 
possess the miller's daughter. 

Moreover one may see the sex motive in poems where 
it does not seem to appear. If certain facts in an au- 
thor's life are known, we may discern the unconscious 
love sentiments in poems where no mention seems to be 
made of them. Let me illustrate with a fine poem by 
Longfellow, the familiar "The Bridge." Take the lines 

"How often, O how often, 
I had wished that the ebbing tide 
Would bear me away in its bosom 
O'er the ocean wild and wide! 

"For my heart was hot and restless, 
And my life was full of care, 
And the burden laid upon me 
Seemed greater than I could bear. 

"But now it has fallen from me, etc." 

To the student of Longfellow, this poem speaks of the 
time he found it difficult to win the love of his second 
wife, Frances Appleton, love for whom he confessed in 
his novel Hyperion^ where he drew her and himself. 
This story was published before she had as yet recipro- 
cated his love. He married her July 13, 1843. He fin- 
ished the po€m October 9, 1845. At the end of this year 
he wrote in his diary that now he had love fulfilled and 
his soul was enriched with affection. He is therefore 
thinking of the time when he had no love and longed 
for it, and now that he has it, he is thinking of the 
love troubles of others. In the olden days he wanted to 
be carried away by the river Charles, for his long court- 
ship, seemingly hopeless, made his heart hot and rest- 



SEXUAL SYMBOLISM 153 

less and his life full of care. So we see that in this 
poem the poet was thinking of something definite, relat- 
ing to love (and hence also sex), though there is no 
mention of either in the poem. 

It is well known that all love complaints are the cries 
of the Jack who cannot get his Jill; or who has lost 
the possibility of love happiness by desertion, decep- 
tion or death. 

Read that fine and pathetic Scotch ballad, beginning 
"O waly, waly up the bank." The girl (or woman) 
has been forsaken by her lover and expects to become 
a mother. She longs for death. She complains about 
the cruelty of love grown cold; she recalls the happy 
days. Her unconscious sentiment is that her lover will 
never give her spiritual happiness or satisfy her craving. 
Her life is empty. The poem was based on an actual 
occurrence. It contains all the despair of love that was 
once given and then withdrawn. 

"O wherefore should I busk my head. 
Or wherefore should I kame my hair? 

"When we came in by Glasgow town 
We were a comely sight to see; 
My love was clad in the black velvet 
And I myself in cramasie." 

She does not want to dress herself gorgeously now as 
she has no lover. Among other great love wails by a 
woman are the old Saxon elegy "A Woman's Complaint" 
and the second Idyl of Theocritus. 

All the pain of frustrated love is due to the repress- 
ing of the tender as well as of the physical emotions, to 
the damming up of the libido, which is love in its broad- 
est sense. 

Sometimes the poets tell us almost plainly their real 
loss, or suggest it in such a manner that we feel the 



154 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

thought has become conscious in the poem. Read in 
Tennyson's "Locksley Hall" the fifteen lines beginning, 
"Is it well to wish thee happy," and one can see that the 
victim is suffering because Amy is in another's em- 
brace rather than in that of the singer's. He thinks with 
maddening thoughts of the clown she married. 

"He will hol^ thee, when his passion shall have spent its 

novel forces, 
Something better than his dog, a little dearer than his horse." 

He calls sarcastically upon Amy to kiss her husband 
and take his hand. "He will answer to the purpose." 
The singer clearly shows his pain because he has been 
cheated out of physical pleasure. 

When we come to the decadent poets, the loss is sung 
plainly. One of the most beautiful poems of this kind 
is Dowson's Cynara. The poem is frankly sexual. The 
poet, who was rejected by a restaurant keeper's daugh- 
ter, tries to console himself with another woman for his 
loss. The words "I have been faithful to thee, Cynara, 
in my fashion" mean he loves her in others. He tries 
to satisfy himself partly by thinking he is with her while 
he is with another. It is a poem showing how a sexual 
repression seeks an outlet with some one who did not 
arouse it and how the poet forces himself to imagine 
that he is with the one who created it. The poem 
makes this clear, that a love poem is always a complaint 
that the libido is being dammed. 

It is therefore true to say that even in the tenderest 
and sweetest love lyrics, like those of Burns and Shelley 
for instance, one sees the play of unconscious sexual 
forces. This fact does not make the poem and the less 
moral or the poet any the less pure. 



SEXUAL SYMBOLISM 1$$ 



Probably the greatest objection to the application of 
psychoanalytic methods to literature will be made to the 
transference of the sexual interpretation of symbols from 
the realm of dreams to that of art. But if the interpre- 
tation is correct in one sphere it is also true in the other. 
Civilisation has made it necessary to refer in actual 
speech to sexual matters in hidden ways, by symbolic 
representations; our faculty of wit, due to the exercise 
of the censorship, also uses various devices of symboli- 
sation. Dreams and literature both make use of the 
same symbols. 

When Freud attributed sexual significance to certain 
typical dreams like those of riding, flying, swimming, 
climbing, and to certain objects, like rooms, boxes, snakes, 
trees, burglars, etc., he made no artificial interpretations. 
He merely pointed out the natural and concrete language 
of the unconscious. 

Now the same interpretation must inevitably follow 
in literature, much as authors and readers may object. 
If flying in dreams is symbolic of sex, then an author 
who is occupied considerably with wishes to be a bird 
and fly or with descriptions of birds flying — I do not 
mean an isolated instance — is like the man who is al- 
ways dreaming he is flying; he is unconsciously ex- 
pressing a symbolical wish. Many poems written to 
birds in literature show unconscious sexual manifesta- 
tions. Shelley's "To A Skylark," Keats's "To A Nightin- 
gale" and Poe's "Raven" are poems where the authors 
sang of repressed love; there is unconscious sex symbol- 
ism in them. 

Wordsworth, one of the poets who rarely mentioned 



I5"6 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

sex, has in his "To a Skylark" unconsciously given us 
a poem of sexual significance. The motive of the poem 
is the intense longing to fly. But beneath the wish to fly 
in the poem, as in the imaginary flying in the dream, 
a sexual meaning is concealed. The poet is sad when 
he writes the poem "I have walked through wildernesses 
dreary, and to-day my heart is weary." He also thinks 
of the fact that the bird is satisfied in love. "Thou hast 
a nest for thy love and thy rest." 

Very few of the poems addressed to birds harp on 
the wish to fly to the extent that Wordsworth does in 
this poem. Nearly half of the poem is taken up with 
this wish, and for this reason the sexual interpretation 
is unmistakable. 

The first two stanzas are as follows: 

"Up with me! up with me into the clouds! 
For thy song, Lark, is strong; 
Up with me, up with me into the clouds! 
Singing, singing. 

With clouds and sky about thee ringing, 
Lift me, guide me till I find 
That spot which seems so to thy mind! 

"I have walked through wildernesses dreary 
And to-day my heart is weary; 
Had I now the wings of a Fairy, 
Up to thee would I fly. 

There is madness about thee, and joy divine, 
In that song of thine; 
Lift me, guide me high and high 
To thy banqueting place in the sky." 

The wish in literature corresponds to the fulfilment 
in the dream, and the psychology of the poet who wishes 
to fly is like that of the dreamer who does fly. Uncon- 
scious sex symbolism is voiced in poems where the poet 
expresses a desire to be a bird, or fly like one, such as 



SEXUAL SYMBOLISM 157 

those by Bernard de Ventadorn, the great Troubadour of 
the twelfth century, "The Cuckoo," by Michael Bruce, 
the Scotch poet who died young from consumption, 
and others. 

I quote from memory the chorus of a poem sung in 
my school days: 

"Oh, had I wings to fly like you 
Then would I seek my love so true, 
And never more we'd parted be, 
But live and love eternally." 

The author here tells us most plainly why he or she 
wants to fly like a bird — for the satisfaction of love. He 
says practically that merely by flying like the bird, he 
would have the embrace of the loved one. The open- 
ing lines of the chorus show that it is no far-fetched 
idea, that of seeing sex or love symbolism in birds 
flying or singing. 

We recall Burns's famous poem to the bonny bird 
that sings happily and reminds him of the time when 
his love was true. "Thou'll break my heart, thou bon- 
ny bird," he sings in despair. A false lover stole the 
rose and left the thorn with him. The entire poem is 
full of sex symbolism. That he too would like to have 
love, is what he says when he speaks of the bird singing. 

"The more one is occupied with the solution of 
dreams," says Freud, "the more willingly one must be- 
come to acknowledge that the majority of the dreams 
of adults treat of sexual material and give expression 
to erotic wishes. ... No other impulse has had to 
undergo as much suppression from the time of child- 
hood as the sex impulses in its numerous components; 
from no other impulse has survived so many and such 
intense unconscious wishes, which now act in the sleep- 



158 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

ing state in such a manner as to produce dreams." 
This, to my mind, can not be contested, and these 
wishes appear largely in the form of symbols. In early 
times sex was given great significance, and we know that 
in early myths and literature many events and things 
were sex symbols. When we dream symbolically, we 
go back to a method of picturing events that in early 
history had value, but of which the significance has been 
forgotten. The law of symbol formation is in dreams 
not an arbitrary one; it is based on forms of speech 
in the past and on witty conceptions of to-day. Folk- 
lore and wit are full of sexual symbols corresponding to 
those in dreams. All doubt has been removed of sexual 
S)mibolism in dreams by an experiment made by means 
of hypnotism, where a patient was told to dream some 
sexual situation. Instead of doing so directly she 
dreamed a situation in symbolic form corresponding to 
that in ordinary dream life. Rank and Sachs in their 
The Significance of Psychoanalysis for the Mental Sci- 
ences have given us an excellent study of the nature of 
symbol formation. Freud has furnished us a list of ob- 
jects and actions that are of sexual significance. W. 
Stekel has made an exhaustive study of the subject in 
his Sprache des Traumes (1911). Freud recognises R. 
A. Schemer as the true discoverer of symbolism in 
dreams in his book Das LeberMes Traumes (1896), but 
he admits that Artemidorus in the second century A.D. 
also interpreted dreams symbolically. 

Freud ventures the opinion that dreams about com- 
plicated machinery and landscapes and trees have a 
definite sexual significance. If this is so, and he gives 
his reason therefor, it would mean that all those authors 
who have a partiality for describing landscapes and ma- 
chinery in their works continually, are unconsciously re- 



SEXUAL SYMBOLISM 159 

vealing a personal trait they never intended to convey. 
Ruskin for example is rich in landscapes in his works. 
Is there any connection between his propensity for such 
description and his attachment to his mamma, his youth- 
ful love disappointment, his unsuccessful marriage and 
his sad love for Rose La Touche? Is it not likely that 
many of the painters who made a specialty of landscape 
painting were driven to this special choice by an un- 
conscious cause that the world has not fathomed, a sexual 
one? No doubt there is a connection between paintings 
of female nudes and the sex life of the author in his 
unconscious; why should not the same be true of the 
landscape painters and all the writers who abound in 
landscape descriptions? Is it not possible that Turgenev, 
who has given us so many landscapes, was unconsciously 
thinking of his first love disappointment and also of 
his love for Madame Viardot? We find landscapes in 
every literary work that deals with the country, but 
Freud's theory can have applicability only to the author 
who has a mania for them. 

Why does Kipling have a keen interest in bringing 
descriptions of machinery into his works? If dreams of 
machinery relate to sex, then we must follow the logical 
conclusion that an undue interest in machinery must 
evince a sexual meaning. We are also aware that a large 
number of popular sexual terms are taken from instru- 
ments in the machine-shop. 

I do not maintain that objects do not have a literal 
significance, free from any symbolic intent. 

There can be no doubt about the significance of the 
phallic worship of old times, in which the serpent was 
symbolic. Dreams where the serpent figures and folk 
tales telling of dragons who are symbolic of the lustful 
side of man both have a sexually symbolic meaning. 



i6o THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

Again, if Freud is right in claiming that the dream 
of a woman throwing herself in the water is a parturition 
dream, then one would have to conclude that a woman 
occupied constantly with stories about herself swimming 
was probably absorbed with thoughts about child-bear- 
ing. That this significance for such a dream is not 
absurd may be seen from the following statement by 
Freud: "In dreams, as in mythology, the delivery of a 
child from the uterine waters is commonly presented by 
distortion as the entry of the child into water; among 
many others, the births of Adonis, Osiris, Moses and 
Bacchus are well known illustrations of this." 



in 

Freud was not the first one to interpret dreams sym- 
bolicaUy. There have been excellent symbolical interpre- 
tations in literature. I will mention one in Chaucer and 
another in Ovid. 

In Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, one of the great- 
est love poems ever written and probably a greater work 
of art than any of the Canterbury Tales, there is a 
true symbolic interpretation of an anxiety dream. Troi- 
lus was pining for his love, Criseyde, who had been led 
back by Diomede to the Greeks in exchange for Antenor. 
Troilus dreamt that he saw a boar asleq) in the sun 
and that Criseyde was embracing and kissing it. His 
suspicions as to her faithfulness were confirmed by the 
interpretation given by his sister Cassandra, who told 
him that Crisej^de now loved Diomede; Diomede was 
descended from Meleager the slayer of the boar, which, 
according to the myth, once ravaged among the Greeks. 

Chaucer througjiout his works attacks the theory that 
dreams may be interpreted, but he gives us a true sym- 



i 



i 



SEXUAL SYMBOLISM i6i 

bolical interpretation in this poem. He also here record- 
ed unconsciously some of his own past griefs in love. 
Freud taught that anxiety dreams were due to the repres- 
sion of the libido being converted into fear. We also 
know from anthropology that the boar was a sexual sym- 
bol. In the poem Diomede appears to Troilus as a boar, 
also, because Troilus had heard the story of Mdeager 
and the boar and of the ancestry of Diomede. Even 
though he had forgotten the tale, if he did, since he was 
reminded of it by his sister, it was still present in his 
unccmsdous. His anxiety was due to the fear that 
Diomede had really won Criseyde. The fear that he 
experienced at day, that his sweetheart would be lost 
to him — the anxiety that his libido woxild be rq)ressed, 
become an anxiety dream in which the boar is the symbol 
of his rival. 

In the fifth elegy of the third book of Ovid's Amares, 
the author reports a symbolical dream of the loss of his 
love. It is correctly interpreted, in a Freudian manner, 
by an interpreter of dreams. The poet dreamed that he 
took shelter from the heat in a grove under a tree. He 
saw a very white cow standing before him, and her mate, 
a homed bull, near her chewing his cud. A crow [>ecked 
at the breast of the cow and took away the white hair. 
The cow left the spot; black envy was in her breast 
as she went over to some other bulls. The interpreter 
told Ovid that the heat which the poet was seeking to 
avoid was love, that the cow was his white-complexioned 
mistress and that he was the bull. The crow was a 
procuress who would tempt his mistress to desert him. 
The sexual symbolic interpretation shows that Freud's 
most impopular idea was known among the Romans. 
It happened that Ovid's mistress did prove unfaithful to 
him and he complained of the fact His dream arose. 



i62 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

however, from his day fears, and he had previously writ- 
ten a poem in the Amores against a procuress. 

Ovid is one of the greatest love poets in all literature, 
and his Epistle of Sappho to Phaon in his Heroides trans- 
lated by Pope records some of his own love griefs, though 
these are recorded in his Amores directly. 

The symbolism that psychoanalysis deals with is that 
of the unconscious. Symbols may have the most signifi- 
cance when the dreamer or writer least suspects it. And 
it is only by the study of folk-lore, wit and the neuroses 
that one gets to see their meaning. 

No doubt the critic who examines literary master- 
pieces to find sexual symbols will not be a popular one; 
but that does not alter the fact that the sexual mean- 
ing is there. The field will no doubt be taken up in the 
future by some critic who will not fear to brave public 
wrath. 

It will be seen that many writers who were deemed 
respectable and pure because they never dealt with sex- 
ual problems are full of sex symbolism. They consciously 
strove to conceal their sex interest, but their uncon- 
scious use of sex symbolism shows that they were not 
as indifferent to the problems as they would lead us to 
imagine. 

Browning rarely wrote directly of sex. He is admired 
justly by all lovers of literature; and women are among 
his most enthusiastic lovers. It is true one of his poems, 
the "Statue and the Bust," has puzzled his women ad- 
mirers. Adultery seems to be defended here. Now 
there are some innocent poems of the poet rich in sex 
symbolism. It is well known that dreams of riding on 
horse-back, rocking, or any form of rhythmic motion 
through which the dreamer goes, are sexually symbolical. 
In older literature and in colloquial language the word 



SEXUAL SYMBOLISM 163 

to ride is used in a sexual sense. Browning is especially 
addicted to writing poems describing the pleasure of 
riding, or poems in rhythmic verse which suggest the 
riding process. It has never dawned on critics to sug- 
gest that there may be a cause for this that is to be 
found in the unconscious of the author. 

Take his "The Last Ride Together." The speaker who 
is rejected asks his love to give him the pleasure of a 
last ride with her. Not being able to get the pleasures 
of love from her, he seeks them in another form, a sym- 
bolic one. He will now imagine that he receives them; 
he is prompted to his strange request by unconscious 
causes. He wants a substitute for the actuality. "We 
ride and I see her bosom heave," he says. Every stanza 
says something about the riding. "I ride," "We ride," 
"I and she ride" are repeated throughout the poem. He 
addresses the poet, the sculptor and the musician and 
tells them that he is riding instead of creating art; by 
this he means that they express their longing to love in 
art; he does so by riding. "Riding's a joy." He also lies 
to himself and pretends he is not angry at his mistress 
and that perhaps it was best he didn't win her love; he 
pretends he has no regrets for the past and that he is 
satisfied with the ride instead of her love. The poem 
is an excellent example of the unconscious use of sym- 
bolism in literature. The meaning is clear. 

Two other poems of Browning where sexual sym- 
bolism may be present though there is nothing of love 
in the poems are the famous "How They Brought the 
Good News from Aix to Ghent" and "Through the Me- 
tidja to Abd-El-Kadr." The sexual significance can be 
seen in the rhythmic swing, for both poems suggest the 
motion of the horse rider. The effect in the latter poem 
is produced by the use of the words "I ride" twice in 



1 64 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

the first, third and eighth lines of each of the five stanzas, 
thirty times, and by having each of the forty lines end 
with "ride" or a rhyme to "ride." 

"As I ride, as I ride. 
With a full heart for my guide, 
So its tide rocks my side, as I ride, 
As I ride, as I ride, 
That, as I were double-eyed, 
He, in whom our tribes confide, 
Is descried, ways untried 
As I ride, as I ride." 

IV 

I do not believe that nature worship idea in literature 
has been yet fully analysed. Critics have refused to see 
the exact meaning of the expression "love of nature." 
The poets themselves have told us that they saw in 
nature lessons of moral improvement and inspirations 
for humanitarianism. Granting that this is so, the fact 
still remains that there is much left unsaid by the poets. 
Some of them recognised the real significance of their 
love for nature when they told us how they were inspired 
by her to love, or were reminded of their lack of love. 

Wordsworth, who is one of the greatest nature poets 
the world has ever had, appears singularly free from the 
voicing of the love passion in his work. Except for the 
Lucy poems and a few others, he has given us little love 
poetry. Hazlitt complained that he found no mar- 
riages or giving in marriage in Wordsworth's poetry. But 
nevertheless the sex element is there though never di- 
rectly expressed. There is nothing, it is well known, cal- 
culated to make a man long for the love of woman or 
to miss her more than when he is in the presence of 
nature. Anthropology teaches us the close connection 
between love and nature. When Wordsworth sang of 



SEXUAL SYMBOLISM 165 

the beauties of nature he was voicing a cry for satisfied 
love which he did not have up to his thirtieth year, when 
he married. He was also pining for love of the girl 
he met in France in his twenty-third year, the mother 
of his illegitimate daughter. The poet was using sym- 
bols, such as trees and daisies, whose glory he sang 
when he meant he wished he had love. Some things can 
be enjoyed alone, though not altogether, such as food, 
plays, pictures, reading, music, lectures, etc. It is the 
great distinction of nature that she inspires human love 
and also provokes sadness. 

Most of the old bucolic poets frankly associated their 
Cory dons and Amaryllises with enjoyment of nature. 
Wordsworth, who had much of the English Puritanism, 
was reserved. Any reader who takes up the nature poetry 
of Wordsworth lays it down after a while with the feel- 
ing that the poet is not telling the whole truth. It does 
not follow that Wordsworth was deliberately concealing 
it, for he may have been unaware of what was in his 
unconscious. After he married and had love he contin- 
ued for a while to give us great nature poetry, for the 
most part a reflection of his early mood. For it must 
not be assumed that because a man has love he there- 
fore loses his love for nature. Wordsworth's greatest 
nature poem, "Lines on Tintern Abbey," was v/ritten be- 
fore his marriage; the nature poetry of the last thirty 
or forty years of his life was rather poor. 

The secret of Wordsworth's great nature poetry is 
this: it was a sublimation of his unsatisfied love cravings 
and a symbolic means of expressing them. Instead of 
singing directly of his longing for love, or creating imag- 
inary love scenes for himself, or voicing despair, as other 
poets did, he expressed his passion for nature and thus 
vented himself imconsciously of his feelings. True, the 



1 66 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

impulse of the vernal wood interested him because it 
taught him much about moral evil and good ; it made him 
also think of love and he sang of his love indirectly by 
praising that impulse. 

This theory which seems so inevitable is one to which 
we are forced from so many human experiences with 
nature and yet critics have not dared to advance it. The 
psychology of nature worship will no doubt be more 
completely studied by psychoanalysts some day, and 
we will understand our nature poets better. The in- 
terpretation may offend those who want to persuade 
themselves that nature has only sermons for us, but let 
the reader take up some of the sensuous nature descrip- 
tions in Keats and Spenser and he will realise more 
clearly the underlying meaning of nature worship. 

It is significant that much sexual symbolism has 
been found in two poets who were deemed most ret- 
icent on the subject of sex — ^Wordsworth and Brown- 
ing. 

V 

There is no better proof that common objects, when 
possible, were formerly assigned sexual associations, than 
the obscene riddles of the Exeter Book. This work is 
largely attributed to the second great English poet 
Cynewulf in the eighth century. Certain riddles are 
propounded which reek with lewd suggestions, and the 
answer is supposed to be some object innocent in itself; 
it is apparent, however, from the questions and descrip- 
tions given that the interest in this object is because it 
is sexually symbolical. Thus the answers meant for the 
26th, 45th, 46th, 55th, 63rd and 64th riddles of the 
Exeter Book are leek, key, dough, churn, poker and 
beaker, respectively. The reader will note thus how 



SEXUAL SYMBOLISM 167 

these objects had a sexual symbolic meaning for our 
ancestors. 

Professor Frederic Tupper in his scholarly work The 
Riddles of the Exeter Book says: "By far the most 
numerous of all riddles of lapsing or varying solutions 
are those distinctly popular and unrefined problems 
whose sole excuse for being (or lack of excuse) lies in 
double meaning and coarse suggestion, and the reason 
for this uncertainty of answer is at once apparent. The 
formally stated solution is so overshadowed by the ob- 
scene subject implictly presented in each limited motive 
of the riddle, that little attention is paid to the aptness 
of this. It is after all only a pretence, not the chief 
concern of the jest." He quotes from another scholar, 
Wossidlo, a number of other objects than those sug- 
gested in the Exeter Book, which in other riddle books 
were invested with sexual symbolism. These are spin- 
ning wheel, kettle and pike, yam and weaver, frying- 
pan and hare, soot-pole, butcher, bosom, fish on the hook, 
trunk-key, beer-keg, stocking, mower in grass, butter- 
cask and bread-scoop. 

Freud is apparently correct when he stated that famil- 
iar objects of our day like umbrellas and machinery are 
given a sexual significance by our dreams unconsciously. 

That man early expressed his interest in love in sym- 
bolical terms is conceded by most anthropologists and 
philologists. They have traced the origins of many of 
our customs and institutions, our words and figures of 
rhetoric, to the veiled eroticism of former times. In our 
speech are many terms which now have a distinct sexual 
significance, though they originally had a symbolic one. 
The word for seed in Hebrew is zera, the Latin word is 
semen (from sero, to sow). Both words are also used 
for spermatozoa. Man formerly sought analogies just 



1 68 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

as he does to-day; he often feared to violate a taboo, or 
aimed at a delicacy of expression. He saw the life pro- 
ducing principle at work everywhere, and he found sym- 
bols for it in the phenomena of nature, in the sun, moon, 
water, forest, garden, field, trees, roses; in animals like 
the serpent, the horse, the bull, the fish, the goat, the 
dove; in implements like the arrow, the sword, the 
plough. Cwitoion objects assumed for him suggestive 
meanings. He saw a means of coining new expressions 
for generative acts and objects; he found associations 
when he used the fire-drill drilling in the hollow of the 
wood, or when he threw wood upon the fire. In later 
time he coined new symbolical terms suggested by such 
acts of his as stuffing a cork in a bottle, or putting bread 
in the oven, or inserting a key in the lock. 

Man speaks in symbolic language especially when it 
comes to sex matters. This symbolism appears hence in 
his dreams and his literature. The language of the un- 
conscious is symbolic, and literature is often expressing 
the author's unconscious in symbolic terms without his 
being aware of this. 

When poets celebrate the ceremonies about the May 
pole they may not know that this celebration is related 
to early phallic worship. When iEschylus wrote his 
play of Prometheus stealing the fire, or Milton used the 
Biblical material of Eve tempted by the serpent, they 
were probably ignorant of the sexual associations of fire 
and the serpent in ancient tim.es. But their own works 
thus become symbolical. Shelley, for example, used the 
metaphor of the snake quite often, and one of the best 
known passages in his works is the description of the 
fight of the eagle and the serpent in The Revolt of 
Islam. He often referred to himself also, as the snake. 
Yet he may not have been aware there was an uncon- 



SEXUAL SYMBOLISM 169 

scious connection between his interest in free love and 
the symbol of the serpent. 

The part played by symbolism in love poetry is seen 
especially in The Song of Songs. To us modems and 
occidentals many of the comparisons and symbolical rep- 
resentations seem very strange, but they had their ori- 
gin not in the poet's own conceits but in a historic use 
of the language. This most celebrated of r^^ love poems 
fairly swarms with sensuous symbolic images. It proves 
that early man saw lascivious suggestions everywhere in 
the landscapes, in flowers, rocks, trees, country, city, ani- 
mals. The speech of our ancestors was sexualised. 

The beloved in the poem, which is a dialogue between 
her and her lover, is like a wall with towers (the 
breasts); she is a vineyard; she is in the clefts of the 
rock and the hidden hollow of the cliff. She has eyes 
like doves, her hair is like a flock of straying goats, her 
teeth like a flock of washed ewes, her lips like a scarlet 
thread, her temples like pomegranate, her neck like the 
tower of David builded with turrets and hung with shields, 
her breasts like twin fawns feeding among the lilies. She 
is a closed garden, a shut up spring, a sealed fountain. 
The roundings of her thighs are like the link of a chain, 
her navel is like a round empty goblet, her belly like a 
heap of wheat set among lilies, her eyes like the pools of 
Heshbon, her nose like the tower of Lebanon. 

The lover is like an apple tree among the trees of 
the wood; he is a young hart. His head is as fine gold, 
his eyes are like doves, his cheeks are a bed of spices, 
as a bank of sweet herbs; his lips are lilies dropping 
myrrh, his hands are as rods of gold set with beryl, his 
body is polished ivory overlaid with sapphires, his legs 
are pillars of marble set in sockets of gold; his aspect 
like Lebanon, chosen like the cedar. 



170 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

The embrace of the lovers is described symbolically by 
means of the tree symbol. It is known that the tree was 
formerly used to represent both sexes. "The bisexual 
symbolic character of the tree," says Jung in his Psy- 
chology of the Unconscious (P. 248), "is intimated by 
the fact that in Latin trees have a masculine termina- 
tion and a feminine gender." The lover in the Song of 
Songs calls his beloved a tree and says he will climb up 
to the palm tree and take hold of the branches; his 
beloved's breasts will be as clusters of the vine and the 
smell of her countenance like apples. 

Students of anthropology will recognise all the sex 
symbols in this poem and will find analogies in other 
literatures. This great love poem is regarded by many, 
curiously enough,* as a religious allegory. The chapter 
headings in the King James version of the Bible represent 
Christ and the Church as symbols of the lovers. Higher 
criticism has recognised the fact that the poem is a love 
poem. This is also proved by the fact that from time 
immemorial it has been the practice of orthodox Hebrews 
to read it on the Sabbath eve, which is the time for love 
embrace among them. 

VI 

Psychoanalysis has gone far, indeed, in seeing sex 
symbolism in many objects and ceremonies and alle- 
gories where it was least expected to exist. Freud and 
Jung, though they differ in their views here, see in many 
symbols concealed incestuous wishes. They have dealt 
with the subject in Totem and Taboo and The Phychol- 
ogy of the Unconscious, respectively. I have no inten- 
tion of going into the differences between their theories. 

Artists in the mediaeval ages, who always drew and 
painted the Virgin Mary, showed also unconsciously 



SEXUAL SYMBOLISM 171 

in a symbolic form the infantile incestuous wishes for 
their own mothers. By this I simply imply that having 
failed to find love in real life, they took shelter in their 
love for their mothers. A modern critic has divined the 
significance of the worship of the Virgin in so fine a 
poet as Verlaine, who, while he embraced Catholicism, 
was not a churchman in the strict acceptance of the 
word. In his French Literary Studies, Professor T. B. 
Rudmose-Brown says of Verlaine: "It is his intense need 
of a love that will not return upon itself that makes 
Verlaine turn to Christ's Virgin Mother — the Rosa Mys- 
tica in whom he found all the qualities he looked for in 
vain in his cruelly divine child-wife and his many 
'amies* of later life — and crouch like a weary child be- 
neath her wondrous mantle." Verlaine used the Virgin 
as a symbolic emblem. He unconsciously craved for die 
love of his mother since in later life he was divorced by 
his wife. 

The symbol then often becomes under our new science 
the means of recovering the love one felt as a child for 
one's own mother. The author may not be aware that 
this use of the symbol is being made by him. He uses 
the earth to-day, as man from time immemorial has used 
it, as a symbol of the mother, when he exclaims he wants 
to die and go back to mother earth. 

The researches of scholars have established, then, the 
connection between love and symbolic expressions there- 
of, and it will be the task of future critics to discover 
the author's unconscious expression of his love life by 
symbols. Just as the horse shoe, the mandrake and the 
four-leafed clover, which are signs of good luck among 
superstitious people, were originally symbols of fruitful- 
ness, so other objects described in books will be seen to 
have a sexual origin through a study of anthropology. 



CHAPTER XII 

cannibalism: the atreus legend 



It will be probably a shock to many people to be told 
that the cannibalistic instinct still is part of our uncon- 
scious. It appears in that pathological state known as 
lycanthropy where the patient often has a craving for 
human flesh. It is occasionally revived in cases of starva- 
tion and shipwreck, when men are driven to eat human 
flesh. There should be nothing strange about this, for 
we are descended from people who were cannibals. And 
we know that men of the old stone age in France were 
cannibals and it was practised in Greece in earliest times. 
It has not yet been exterminated in parts of Africa and 
Polynesia. 

Cannibalism figured considerably in ancient literature. 
It is not my purpose to go into the question of its ori- 
gin, or the ceremonials connected with it. There are 
good articles on the subject in the Encyclopcedia of Re- 
ligion and Ethics by J. A. MacCullouch and in the En- 
cyclopoedia Britminica by Northcote W. Thomas. I shall, 
however, touch on instances where men ate human flesh 
at sacrifices. 

Cannibalism to-day has chiefly a historic and a liter- 
ary interest. The subject is worth taking up because of 
the attention paid to it in literature. We have tales 
about it to-day. Conrad has given us in his Folk a 

172 



CANNIBALISM: THE ATREUS LEGEND 173 

story of cannibalism. Falk was the survivor on a 
wrecked ship and was driven by hunger to feast on the 
bodies of sailors, thus saving his life. The memory of 
the event is of course horrible to him. The young lady 
he loves marries him, despite his experience. 

One of Jack London's stories of cannibalism is "The 
Whale Tooth" in his South Sea Tales. It tells how a 
missionary who went out to convert some Fiji cannibals 
was betrayed by Ra Vatu, a heathen about to embrace 
Christianity. The savage desired the missionary's boots 
to present to a chief. In spite of his acceptance of the 
religion of Christ he was willing to have his bene- 
factor made a victim of cannibalism. In the same story 
London refers to a chief who ate eight hundred and 
seventy-two bodies. 

Cannibalism is to us but a curiosity that we once 
practised. We find no injunction against cannibalism, 
or eating one's children, among the crimes on the stat- 
ute books. It is no crime under the Common Law. A 
man who would commit cannibalism among us would 
be sent to an insane institution. There are no laws 
against a thing when no one has the least inclination 
to do it. Society recognises that the instinct for canni- 
balism is dead, but it is nevertheless in our unconscious. 
Our psyche never forgets the episodes in the lives of our 
ancestors. 

The only places where there are laws against canni- 
balism are in savage countries where there is a disposi- 
tion to practise it; and these laws are made by colonists. 

It is prevalent to-day in Africa. John H. Weeks in 
Among Congo Cannibals (1913) tells us he saw savages 
carrying dismembered parts of human bodies for a feast 
and that he was offered some cooked human food. He 
also speaks of a white man who was a dealer in human 



174 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

flesh to a tribe, an example of degradation that finds a 
parallel in Kurtz's conduct in Conrad's story The Heart 
of Darkness. Mr. Herbert Ward in his A Voice from 
Congo (1910) describes how some human victims were 
hawked to pieces, alive, for feasts; he witnessed or- 
ganised traffic in human flesh and saw several cannibal 
feasts. 

n 

Let us mark the part played by cannibalism in ancient 
Greek literature. We will see that the cannibalistic in- 
stinct was part of the psychic life of the earliest Greeks. 
There was a reaction to it as there was to incest of the 
son with the mother as shown in Sophocles's Oedipus. 
Enforced cannibalism, where a rnan was made to eat his 
own children unknowingly, is the revenge motive of the 
famous Greek play — Agamemnon; this play depicts the 
reaction to cannibalism. 

In the Atreus legend which iEschylus used in Aga- 
memnon, Thyestes eats the flesh of his children, offered 
up to him by his brother Atreus, in revenge for having 
seduced Atreus's wife. In expiation of Atreus's crime his 
future descendants suffer. The unfortunate Thyestes 
had a son, iEgisthus, as the offspring of the connection 
with Atreus's wife — (Pelopia, Thyestes's own daughter, 
by the way). Atreus and his son Agamemnon were later 
killed by iEgisthus, who had besides seduced Agamem- 
non's wife Clytemnestra. Agamemnon's son, Orestes, 
avenges the murder by killing his mother and her para- 
mour. Orestes is shown as expiating his matricide in the 
Or est eta trilogy of which Agamemnon is the first play. 

In -^schylus's Agamemnon, we have the expiation of 
the crime of Atreus for enforcing cannibalism on his 
brother. There are several passages dealing with the 



CANNIBALISM: THE ATREUS LEGEND 175 

crime. iEgisthus describes in detail how his father 
Thyestes ate the flesh of his own children and how he 
vomited when he was told what he had done. When 
Cassandra, who returns with Agamemnon, in her insane 
ravings is telling of the punishment to befall Clytemnes- 
tra she has a vision of the old feast of the children. The 
Chorus also tells about the story. 

All this shows the horror which was inspired by a deed, 
the eating of one's children, and this must mean that 
way back in antiquity this act was practised and that the 
Greeks were now describing the act as revolting. 

There are several other stories of enforced cannibalism 
in ancient literature with revenge as the motive. Hero- 
dotus tells us how the King of the Medes punished 
Harpagus for not killing Cyrus by making Harpagus dine 
on the flesh of his own son. This was in the sixth cen- 
tury B. C. Tereus, King of the Thracians, was served 
up his son by the latter's own mother, because Tereus 
dishonoured his sister-in-law, Philomela, and deprived her 
of her tongue. In one of Grimm's fairy tales, The Juni- 
per Tree, we have the story of a man who is given the 
flesh of his own child by his wife, the child's step- 
mother. 

Seneca in the first century A. D. wrote Thyestes, dra- 
matising all the repulsive episodes, describing the pre- 
paring of the children for the feast and the feast itself. 
The most loathsome theme is made the main idea of the 
story. Shakespeare has a scene in Titus Andronicus 
where Titus makes the wicked Tamora eat the heads of 
her two sons baked in a pie. Crebillon wrote a canni- 
balistic play in the i8th century, Atree et Thyeste. 

The tale of Saturn, who swallowed his children when 
they were born so as not to be dethroned in accordance 
with the prophecy, with the result that he was com- 



176 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

pelled to disgorge them later by Zeus, has its parallels 
in folk-lore among the Bushmen, Eskimos and others. It 
is a very old story. 

Freud saw in the CEdipus legend the horror reaction 
of the Greeks to two legendary deeds, the killing of a 
father and the marrying of the mother by the son, deeds 
which had their basis in reality and which were occa- 
sionally repeated in dreams. Similarly we can see in the 
Atreus legend a reaction to the idea of eating one's 
children, an act that used to accompany the offering 
of human sacrifices. But we cannot say that the can- 
nibalistic instinct affects one's future as the CEdipus 
complex does. It is, however, part of our unconscious. 
The effectiveness of Swift's famous satirical proposition 
to help the poor in Ireland by suggesting that they sell 
the flesh of their own children for food to the rich, is due 
to the fact that children's flesh was actually once eaten. 
Swift wrote his essay with ironical intent but he was 
utihsing an ancient historical fact, unknowingly. 

We know from the stories of Abraham and Isaac, Jeph- 
thah and his daughter, and Iphigenia, as well as from 
historical records, that children were offered as human 
sacrifices and that the body of the victim was often 
eaten; hence there is a connection between human sacri- 
fice and cannibalism. 

J. A. MacCullouch in his scholarly article on can- 
nibalism in the EncyclopCBdia of Religion and Ethics, 
ventures the opinion that human sacrifice rose through 
an earlier cannibalism, on the principle that as men 
liked human flesh the Gods would also relish it. The 
worshippers later shared in the human feasts, with the 
Gods. Westermarck says that the sacrificial form of 
cannibalism springs from the idea that a victim of- 
fered to a God participates in his sanctity and the wor- 



CANNIBALISM: THE ATREUS LEGEND 177 

shipper by eating the human flesh transfers to himself 
something of the divine virtue. 

There were many cases of orgastic cannibalism in an- 
cient Greece. There is a vase showing a Thracian tear- 
ing a child with his teeth in the presence of a god. Pau- 
sanias relates that a child was torn and eaten in a sac- 
rifice to the Gods in Boeotia. In Plato's Republic, VIII 
566, we have an account of a survival of an earlier canni- 
bal sacrificial feast. It is related there that a piece of 
human flesh was placed among the animals sacrificed 
to Zeus Lycaeus and that in the feasts that followed the 
eater of the fragments became a were-wolf. 

Other people like the Fijis who partook in a human 
feast offered first part of the slain to the gods. 

The custom of human sacrifices and cannibalism died 
out among the Greeks, and in iEschylus's trilogy we 
have the horror reaction of the educated Greek against 
these institutions. The playwright shows the terrible 
retaliation visited on the man who indulges in cannibalism 
or makes another do so. Punishment for Atreus's deed 
is visited upon his son, Agamemnon, in many ways, one 
of which is being forced to sacrifice his daughter Iphige- 
nia. Agamemnon is also punished by the infidelity of 
his wife with iEgisthus, and by being murdered by them. 

The tale of Iphigenia thus sheds some light on the 
subject. She figures considerably in the Agamemnon. 
iEschylus tells us that Clytemnestra felt justified for 
being untrue to her husband Agamemnon because he 
sacrificed their daughter Iphigenia. The latter's name 
is closely associated with human sacrifice in Greek legend. 

In the Saturnalia of Rome a human victim was slain 
as late as the fourth century A. D. 

The theory then resolves itself to this: In very an- 



178 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

cient times before Greek civilisation made its appear- 
ance children were sacrificed to ward off evil and the 
flesh of those children was eaten by the parents. There 
rose a reaction to this which we see in the Atreus legend. 



CHAPTER XIII 

SOME PSYCHOANALYSIS AND LITERARY CRITICISM 



Psychoanalysis will put in a new light the old liter- 
ary controversies between realism and idealism, be- 
tween classicism and romanticism. Idealistic writers are 
those who write of imaginary pleasing scenes and char- 
acters. Their books are founded on the same principles 
that are at the basis of dreams; these are the fulfilment 
of the author's wishes. We grow weary of a deluge of 
such literature, because it is too visionary and not re- 
lated to reality. We prefer to see life as it is, even 
though it is harsh. Hence our reaction to those ancient 
types of romances where the heroes are always strong, 
pursuing false ideals, obeying silly codes of honour, and 
are always triumphant; we weary still more of the hero- 
ines who are always without individuality. The most 
idealistic books are those dealing with Utopias, and 
though the new visionary societies are as a rule undesir- 
able and impossible, they represent the wish of the 
author fulfilled; such works sometimes, as in the 
case of Plato's Republic and More's Utopia, are full of 
valuable suggestions. Utopias, however, are generally 
dreary because they make no allowances for our in- 
stincts; the author is insincere to himself and pretends 
to be what he is not. 

179 



i8o THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

Then there is the idealistic literature which builds a 
dream palace beyond this life. The author wants to 
live forever and to have things he did not possess here, 
and he creates imaginary scenes where all that he suf- 
fered here is righted. Of this type of literature is the 
Paradise of Dante, and the Celestial City of Bunyan. 
Literature of this type pleases many people, as it enables 
them to get away from reality and to have a ground for 
believing in the existence of chimeras they cherish. 

Idealism in literature is the selection for description of 
only those features of life that please the fancy of the 
author. People are described not as they are but as the 
author would like them to be; events are narrated not 
as they occur in life but as the writer would wish them 
to happen. The dream of the author is given instead of 
an actual picture of reality. When Shakespeare grew 
weary of London life, he drew a picture of life in the 
forest of Arden in his As You Like It such as he would 
have liked to have enjoyed. Idealistic literature hence 
gives us an insight into the nature of the author's uncon- 
scious. His constructed air castles show us where reality 
has been harsh with him. It is true all literature must to 
some extent be idealistic, as the author must always do 
some selecting. Idealism will never die out in literature. 
Man is an idealist by nature; every man who has day 
dreams is reconstructing life in accordance with his de- 
sires. 

There is always a large element in the population that 
hearkens back to its childhood days. Even our most in- 
tellectual people like to divert themselves with stories 
of piracy, battles, sunken treasures, tales of the sea, of 
adventure and mystery. The people who love romance 
go back in their reading to their boyhood days; they have 
in their unconscious, primitive emotions that, unable to 



LITERARY CRITICISM i8i 

find an outlet to-day very well, refuse to remain alto- 
gether repressed; they get satisfaction by seeing pictures 
of life in which the unconscious thus participates. The 
perennial interest of Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Is- 
land, of Scott and Dumas, of the sea stories of Cooper 
and Captain Marryat, of the detective stories of Gabo- 
riau and Doyle, is due to the fact that they make us 
young again. It is true we often outgrow some of these 
books and find them dull in later life, but they enchant 
many of us at all ages because our inherent instincts 
from savage and less cultivated people can only be kept 
repressed by being given a feigned instead of a real satis- 
faction. 

Old legends like those about Achilles, the Wandering 
Jew, the Flying Dutchman, Charlemagne, and King Ar- 
thur and his knights, never weary us; they continue to 
furnish artists and writers with artistic material. Psy- 
choanalysis explains the love we feel for these romances. 
We have never quite grown out of either the barbar- 
ous or boyish state. We like the strange, the mar- 
vellous, the mysterious, for this was specially charac- 
teristic of man in an early stage and of the boy. We 
also find an affinity for the kind of life our ancestors led. 
We are interested in tales where men are hunting and 
fighting. Man's unconscious loves a fight, for he has 
always fought in the history of the race. He is fasci- 
nated by danger and the idea of overcoming obstacles. 
And he wants such scenes introduced in literature. 

Psychoanalysis also explains the affinity that we have 
for the supernatural in literature. Freud's disciples, like 
Rank and Abraham and Ricklin, have shown in The 
Myth of the Birth of the Hero, in Dreams and Myths, 
and in Wishfulment and Fairy Tales, respectively, that 
fairy tales are to be interpreted like dreams and represent 



i82 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

the fulfilled wishes of early humanity. The child who 
likes fairy tales finds his own wishes satisfied in these 
tales dealing with the supernatural and improbable. Even 
when great poets make use of the supernatural in their 
work, the same principles of wish fulfilment are there. 
Faust is saved in Goethe's poem, Prometheus is released 
in Shelley's lyric drama and the Knight of the Cross 
is victorious over the dragon in Spenser's allegory. The 
poems give us the fulfilled wishes of the modern poets. 
True the n^odern poet introduces advanced ideas of his 
time and gives different interpretations to the old tales. 
But we still love the supernatural because we have our 
limitations with reality. 

In an essay on Hans Christian Andersen published in 
1867 George Brandes showed the connection between 
the unconscious and the nursery tale. Thus he antici- 
pated the discoveries of Abraham, Ricklin and Rank, who 
noted that folk-lore and fairy tales are, like dreams, 
realised wishes of the unconscious of early humanity, 
formulated into endurable form. Brandes objected to 
the occasional moral tag in Andersen's stories "because 
the nursery story is the realm of the unconscious. Not 
only are unconscious beings and objects the leaders of 
speech in it, but what triumphs and is glorified in the 
nursery story is this very element of unconsciousness. 
And the nursery story is right, for the unconscious ele- 
ment is our capital and the source of our strength." 
Brandes shows how child psychology interests us all 
because of its unconscious. He distinguished the changes 
brought in by the nineteenth century where the uncon- 
scious is worshipped, while in the critical eighteenth cen- 
tury consciousness alone had been valued. 

Nietzsche understood that the romantic life of our 
ancestors and their ways of thinking were repeated by 



LITERARY CRITICISM 183 

us in our dreams. He wrote in his Human All Too 
Human, Vol. i, pp. 23-26: "The perfect distinctions of 
all dreams — representations, which pre-suppose absolute 
faiih in their reality, recall the conditions that apper- 
tain to primitive man, in whom hallucination was ex- 
traordinarily frequent, and sometime simultaneously 
seized entire communities, entire nations. Therefore, in 
sleep and in dreams we once more carry out the task 
of early humanity. ... I hold, that as man now still 
reasons in dreams, so men reasoned also when awake 
through thousands of years; the first cause which oc- 
curred to the mind to explain anything that required an 
explanation, was sufficient and stood for truth . . . this 
ancient element in human nature still manifests itself 
in our dreams, for it is the foundation upon which the 
higher reason has developed and still develops in every 
individual; the dream carries us back into the remote 
conditions of human culture, and provides a ready means 
of understanding them better. Dream- thinking is now 
so easy to us because during immense periods of human 
development we have been so well drilled in this form 
of fantastic and cheap explanation, by means of the first 
agreeable notions. In so far, dreaming is a recreation of 
the brain, which by day has to satisfy the stern demands 
of thought, as they are laid down by the higher culture." 
Supernatural phenomena, however, in our contempo- 
rary literature savour of imitation and the artificial. 
Writers do not as a rule believe in the supernatural while 
the creators of the old fairy tales did. From so fine a 
poet as Yeats, who is said to believe in fairies, we get 
literature that is both sincere and artistic. We have a 
beautiful ideal reconstruction of the world in such a play 
as The Land of Heart's Desire, Here the dream prin- 
ciple is still at work. 



i84 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

Among the fairy tales of our day are those centring 
around psychic phenomena and reporting the conversa- 
tions of the dead. They are written because they repre- 
sent the writer's wishes to communicate with the dead 
and to prove that we do not die. They are needed by 
some in an era of exact science and a great war as 
old folk lore was needed in its time. Needless to say 
this does not speak well for the intellects of the writ- 
ers of these spiritualistic works. We make something 
occur because we want it to transpire. Lodge's Raymond 
is one of the fairy tales of recent times and it has a 
genuineness because the author, to the amazement of 
many of us, believes those talks with his son actually 
took place. The book is really a commentary on his 
pathetic state of mind after the death of his son, and is 
his dream of hope. 

But realistic literature is after all in the ascendant, for 
it tells us of what we experience in our own life. Don 
Quixote showed us that love for books dealing with 
dreams and impossibilities may help to make one mad. 
Men are interested in their inner struggles and in the 
problems of the day. Books treating of these have re- 
placed considerably the old romances as serious litera- 
ture. 

Romantic and idealistic works are like dreams, frag- 
ments of the psychic life of the race when it was young. 

n 

The literary works that we like best are those which 
tell of the frustration of wishes like our own. We prefer 
to read about troubles like those we have suffered, to 
lose ourselves in the dreams and fantasies built up by 



LITERARY CRITICISM 185 

authors, akin to those we have conjured up in our own 
imagination. 

We prefer a book that apologises for us, that tells of 
strivings and repressions such as we have experienced. 
We get a sort of pleasure then out of painful works, in 
which our sorrows and wants are put into artistic form, 
so as to evoke them again in us. It depends often on the 
character of our repression as to the nature of the books 
we like. If we have overthrown the authority of our 
fathers or experienced a painful love repression because 
we were hampered by social laws, if we have broken with 
our religious friends or been crushed by some moneyed 
powers, we may become of a revolutionary trend of mind 
and hence prefer writers with radical opinions. In our 
time there have arisen a number of geniuses who voiced 
such opinions ; having experienced repressions on account 
of the customs of society, they sang and wrote of those 
repressions and attacked those customs. The great love 
felt by the young man who does not fit into the social 
order, for writers like Whitman, Ibsen, Nietzsche, Shaw, 
and others, is because these writers approve an individual- 
ism that he seeks to cultivate. He who is grieved by the 
tyranny of the philistine and the bourgeois, the hypocrite 
and the puritan, finds himself consoled by writers who 
were also victims of such tyranny. 

If we are somewhat more neurotic than the average 
person, or even abnormal, we go to the writers who are 
neurotic and abnormal. Why did Baudelaire love Poe 
so much? Because he saw in him another Baudelaire, a 
dreamer out of accord with reality, a victim of drink and 
drugs, a sufferer at the hands of women, an artist loving 
beauty and refusing to be a reformer. Hence he trans- 
lated Poe's works, swore to read him daily, and imi- 
tated him. Baudelaire's unconscious recognised a brother 



i86 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

sufferer in Poe; he wanted to have the same ideal condi- 
tions Poe imagined in his dreams; he suffered from the 
same neuroses that Poe suffered. These two writers be- 
came the idols of the French decadent writers, and Huys- 
mans, Mallarme and others loved them. The French 
decadents found affinities with ancient authors, especially 
the Roman poets of the Silver Age, Petronius and Apu- 
leius. Oscar Wilde, Dowson and Arthur Symons in our 
literature belong to the group who found themselves in 
harmony with the French decadents. 

Literary influences are due to definite reasons and fol- 
low regular laws. Though sometimes authors appeal to 
us who are just the opposite of ourselves, we, as a rule, 
love those writers who write of our own unconscious 
wishes. 

What is the secret of the universal appeal of Hamlet? 
Is it not because many of us, like him, have been in con- 
flict wherein we could not act because there was an ex- 
ternal obstacle? Dr. Ernest Jones found a reason for 
Hamlet's inability to act in an unconscious feeling of 
guilty love for his mother. He was jealous of his uncle, 
the murderer of his father, and also the successful rival 
to Hamlet in his mother's affections. This psychoanaly- 
tic interpretation made by Dr. Ernest Jones adds a new 
element to the old theory of Hamlet's struggle with fate. 
Hamlet has given rise to a series of characters in litera- 
ture characterised by inaction, by thinking and not doing. 
Russian literature, with its Rudins and Oblomovs, has 
recognised in this portrayal by Shakespeare a common 
Russian type. Hamlet, nevertheless, had good reason 
for not being able to act, and finally did act, though he 
made a bungle of it all. 

Byron and Shelley have had more imitators and lovers 
than any of the poets of England of their time. We know 



LITERARY CRITICISM 187 

the influence of each of them on Tennyson and Browning 
respectively, though the Victorians later departed from 
the footsteps of their masters and became conservative. j 

But the causes that made Heine, Leo^ardi, De Musset t^I 
and Pushkin love Byron were the same as those which 
drew to Shelley, the republican melodist Swinburne, 
James Thomson, the atheist author of the City of Dread- 
ful Night, Francis Thompson, the Catholic maker of 
beautiful forms out of his own sufferings, and the un- 
happy lyricist Beddoes, who committed suicide. The 
later poets found Byron and Shelley singers of uncon- 
scious wishes of their own, portrayers of moods and sor- 
rows like those they felt and constructors of means of 
ridding the world of such griefs by plans they largely 
approved. 

The reason for the universal appeal of the Bible is 
because of the variety in this library of books; there is 
always some chapter that expresses our unconscious 
wishes. 

The Old Testament, especially, satisfies our uncon- 
scious. This is due to the psalms voicing human sorrow, 
and the prophecies of Isaiah ringing with a passionate 
love for justice, to the pleasant tales that appeal to our 
youthful fancy like those of Joseph and his brethren, 
and Ruth, and the philosophical drama of Job, in whose 
sufferings we see our own, to the epicureanism and mel- 
ancholy in Ecclesiasticus, and the military exploits of 
Joshua and David. The Bible appeals as literature to 
many who do not believe in dogma or miracles, to many 
who find parts of it cruel and unjust because it is a va- 
ried collection of books, and, as a result, the unconscious 
wishes and means of gratification of some of the writers 
must meet our own, separated as we are from them by 
thousands of years. 



i88 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

When we read that Wordsworth soothed De Quincey 
and John Stuart Mill, and had a tonic effect on Arnold, 
so that he became a leading disciple, that Shaw based 
his wit and philosophy on Samuel Butler, an almost for- 
gotten contemporary, that Brandes found an affinity in 
writers like Shakespeare and Ibsen, we are aware that 
the process is the same: the later author found some 
earlier one who especially expressed his unconscious 
wishes. 

Take the literary influences in literature, that of 
Smollet on Dickens, that of Dickens on Daudet and Dos- 
toievsky and Bret Harte, that of Balzac on Flaubert, of 
Flaubert on Maupassant and Zola, of Carlyle on Ruskin 
and Froude, of Kipling on Jack London. AH this means 
that the author influenced found in his master a kindred 
sufferer and a kindred dreamer. 

Literature gives each writer or reader the means of 
choosing his own father as it were. When a man says 
he found his whole life changed by a certain book, it is 
equivalent to his saying that the book has merely made 
him recognise his unconscious; it did not put anything 
there that was not there before. The book had a psy- 
choanalytic effect on him; it taught him to look at his 
unconscious objectively; it brought to consciousness 
something that was repressed. If the resistance to per- 
ceiving that unconscious had not been overcome the 
book could have had no effect. We hate a book often 
because the censorship in us is too great. When John 
A. Symonds describes the effects of Whitman's Leaves of 
Grass, which he says influenced him more than any other 
book except the Bible, he meant Whitman cured him of 
neurosis, brought out his repressed feelings and made 
him aware of his inner wants and told him how to satisfy 
them. 



LITERARY CRITICISM 189 

The saying, "Tell me what you read and I'll tell you 
what you are," is true. People differ about the qualities 
of books because their own unconscious wishes have been 
met differently in these books. 



m 

What then is the cause of literary movements and what 
stamps the peculiarities of a literary age, if all writers 
draw on their unconscious? Why does a Pope appear in 
the age of Queen Anne and a Wordsworth at the end of 
the reign of George IV? Why didn't Shakespeare write 
in the Elizabethan age like Charles Dickens in the Vic- 
torian period? How account for the warlike character 
of the Saxon epic Beowulf, for the religious tone of her 
first poet, Caedmon; for the interest in chivalry and alle- 
gory in the Faerie Queen? What made Bunyan so ab- 
sorbed in salvation, in Pilgrim's Progress, ait the 
time the Restoration dramatists were steeped in ex- 
hibitionism and immorality? What are the causes of the 
notes of moral revolt in Byron and Shelley, of the roman- 
ticism of Scott, the realism of George Eliot? If the un- 
conscious is alike in all people, and genius records the 
ideas and emotions formed by personal repressions, it 
would seem the works of all geniuses who have had simi- 
lar repressions should be alike, irrespective of the ages in 
which they lived. 

Literary historians and philosophers have accounted 
for the various changes in literary taste fairly satisfac- 
torily, although they have often omitted from their in- 
vestigations the factor of the personal experiences and 
idiosyncrasies of the author, and have emphasised too 
strongly the importance of the predominant ideas of the 
age. Yet no author starts out to express the spirit of his 



IQO THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

age. He gives vent to his unconscious which he sup- 
presses more or less, and colours, in accordance with the 
literary fashion prevailing. His unconscious appears in 
a background of the literary machinery and ideas of the 
time. Since in our unconscious are present all the 
emotions man has had, different events may make any 
of them burst forth. 

On account of the recent war, many dormant emotions 
were reanimated in us and appeared in our literature. 
People found that Homer's Iliad and other ancient war- 
like epics appealed to them more than these did in times 
of peace. Literature in war times becomes more related 
to primitive literature where the hero is the successful, 
brave warrior. The military and patriotic spirit had not 
been extinct, but quiescent. 

If Milton had lived in the eighteen nineties he would 
probably have written problem plays and novels instead 
of Paradise Lost. He was unhappily married, but the 
fashion of his age was not to create imaginative works 
based on justifiable causes for seeking a divorce. He did 
write on the subject of divorce, however, and his views 
horrified his contemporaries. He stood alone. Had the 
tendencies of the time been to make works of the imag- 
ination out of situations in which he was personally 
placed, he would have no doubt done so. In his uncon- 
scious he felt about women and divorce much as Strind- 
berg did. He retained during the Restoration his early 
Puritanism and religious interests, and hence published 
Paradise Lost. Even here he found an opportunity 
for expressing special views about women and describing 
his own forlorn condition. 

Again it is likely that Shakespeare in our generation 
would not have written much differently from Ibsen or 
Hauptmann. The marriage problem interested him also, 



LITERARY CRITICISM 191 

for he was unhappily married and loved another. He 
expressed his bitterness towards woman in his sonnets, 
in his characterisations of historical characters like Cleo- 
patra and Cressida. But he wrote no special work occu- 
pied with the theme of the hard restrictions placed by so- 
ciety upon the lives of some unhappily married people. 
A work of this kind would have been almost a monstrosity 
in his age. Shakespeare could not have written exactly 
as Ibsen did, for though in their unconscious they were 
alike, each had different traditions and backgrounds to 
work on. No writer ignores totally prevailing literary 
fashions or tastes. 

It is not my purpose to go into the causes of changes 
in tastes, traditions, ideas, movements. That subject has 
been dealt with often. Economic reasons are great factors 
in developing new literary periods and movements, yet 
also have much to do with this feeling of reaction against 
a preceding age. The artificiality of the eighteenth cen- 
tury gave way to the love of nature of the nineteenth. 
The demand for reason, wit and classicism in literature 
disappeared gradually, to be replaced by imagination, the 
utilisation of emotion and romanticism. Wordsworth is a 
reaction to Pope (even though Wordsworth's nature wor- 
ship concealed his sex interest). His way was prepared 
by other writers of nature like Thomson, Collins, Gold- 
smith, Gray, Cowper, Crabbe, Blake and Bums. The 
immo^lity and exhibitionism of Congreve, Wycherly, 
Farquai', Van Brugh and Dryden in the Restoration 
period were a reaction to the Puritanism of the age of 
Cromwell. Bunyan, because of his early training and 
physical and mental condition, however, still clung to 
his early puritanism. 

Yet Pope and Wordsworth were each men of their ages 
and wrote in accordance with the rising literary traditions 



192 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

of the time, though they also altered these. For the imita- 
tive instinct is powerful and present in the most original 
writers. Shakespeare's plays are much like those of Mar- 
lowe and Fletcher, though greater. His "plagiarisms," 
like those of Milton, were extensive. It is true that often 
one man sets the standard for a literary age, but he 
usually has predecessors. His influence is due to the fact 
that he strikes responsive chords in the unconscious of 
many people of his time, and the circle of his admirers 
and imitators increases, so as to make him an authority. 

The realistic novels of George Eliot appeared after 
England wearied of the fanciful fictions of Walter Scott. 
A generation passed by before the reaction set in with 
full force. Both writers wrote as they did, largely in 
obedience to the tendencies of their times, upon which 
they reacted and were reacted upon. They wrote be- 
cause of personal repressions. Their methods of expres- 
sion were different, because of a desire to comply some- 
what with literary traditions. Romanticism was fashion- 
able in 1830, while realism was in the air in i860. 

Those readers who think that these views do not give 
sufficient credit to writers for originality in literary 
expression should remember that common literary forms 
are followed by writers who may nevertheless be original 
in ideas. Only the student of literary history realises the 
power of literary imitation. 

Take the thousands of pastorals that flooded European 
literature from Theocrities to Pope; most of them, ex- 
cept Spenser's Astrophel, Milton's Lycidas, and a few 
others were flat and unprofitable. Note the numerous 
sonnets written since the form was brought over from 
Italy by Wyatt and Surrey. The extensive use of the 
sonnet proves poets are imitative. 

Recall the allegories with which mediaeval literature 



LITERARY CRITICISM 193 

abounded. Even the great short stories of Hawthorne, 
who was much influenced by Bunyan and Spenser, 
show traces of mediaeval forms. Literary tradition is 
certainly stronger than originality. And the thousands 
of authors of our day who write novels and short stories, 
would in mediaeval times have written allegories. 

The ideas and mode of ^expression change, and hence 
makes much of the old literature obsolete. But many 
emotions remain eternal. We can still feel with Sappho 
and the Troubadours, whereas we find our intellect in- 
sulted by some of the religious ideas versified by Dante 
and Milton; although the passages describing secular 
emotions win our admiration. 

When we must look for an author's unconscious buried 
in the literary trappings of his day we weary of the task 
and dismiss his work. Why can we not read the thou- 
sands of pastorals and allegories of the mediaeval 
writers? Is it not largely because of the feeble intellects, 
and spirit of imitation present, because of the absence 
of the personal note? The unconscious is buried too 
deeply in rigmarole. The works have a psychological and 
historical but not artistic value. The religious and 
romantic instincts in many of us are buried too deeply in 
our unconscious, and hence we do not sympathise with 
those works. 

Those poets live who have been most personal. The 
Roman poets, Horace, Catullus, Titullus, Propertius, 
Ovid, Lucretius, were personal. Even the Mneid reveals 
the soul of Virgil in the story of ^Eneas and Dido. 

The unconscious is present in all literature, and the lit- 
erary movement but colours it and gives occasion for the 
expression or censorship of certain phases of it. Puritan 
writers are not in their unconscious any different from the 
"immoral" ones; only the latter relax the censor and give 



194 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

full play to the unconscious, when a liberal age like that 
of the Restoration or the Renaissance, permits it. 

Hence, though all writers draw on their unconscious 
and base their work on their personal repressions, authors 
of one age differ in manner and substance from those of 
another, not because the unconscious is different (which 
it is not), but because it is fashionable to express only- 
certain features of it in one age; because writers have an 
instinctive tendency to comply with the literary fashions 
of their age; because the time spirit colours and censors 
those elements of the unconscious which appear in the 
literary product. 

Freud has shown in his Psychopathology of Every- 
Day Life that we tend to forget the things that are 
displeasing to us, that unconsciously we avoid what has 
once caused us pain. The objection has been raised to 
this theory that as a matter of fact it is the painful things 
that we never forget, and that these impress themselves 
most on us. Such critics might have taken it for granted 
that the scientist who laid down the principles that the 
neuroses date from the earliest painful love experiences 
which are never forgotten, but merely repressed and un- 
conscious, would not have overlooked their objections. 
Certainly we do not forget painful things, but nature has 
so provided that we have a tendency to repress into our 
unconscious annoying events and go on our way as if 
they had never happened ; only in symptomatic acts, mis- 
takes, slips of the tongue and otherwise do we betray our- 
selves. The man whose wife has lied never forgets it if 
he has loved her. But if he has, let us say, been slighted 
by a person who has not been playing a principal part in 



LITERARY CRITICISM 195 

his life, he will go on living as if that person had never 
existed for him. He may unconsciously avoid the street 
where that man lives, and forget about him, until some 
occasion may arise when he may betray his dislike of that 
person in a manner he never intended; the action is, 
nevertheless, the voice of his unconscious. Life would 
be unbearable if we always had before us pictures of our 
past sufferings. In fact, a neurosis is brought about by 
the fact that we don't forget. As Freud said, the hysteric 
suffers from reminiscences or fantasies based on painful 
events in the past. 

The principle of unconscious avoiding of the painful is 
at the basis of the rejection of the world's great books, 
both old and new. Literary criticism is influenced by 
our tendency to ignore what causes us pain. 

The world has not always realised the reason for the 
opposition to a new great thinker, or an advanced idea or 
book. We have contented ourselves by asserting that the 
world was not yet advanced enough intellectually to per- 
ceive their greatness. We know, however, that often the 
most intellectual people of an age are the first to reject 
a new idea. Men like Carlyle and Lord Beaconsfield 
would have nothing to do with the theory of evolution. 
Darwin's chief opponents were among the leading biolo- 
gists of the time. 

The fact of one's being born in an earlier generation 
from the man who propounds the new idea, is a large fac- 
tor in the rejection of it. Another unconscious reason for 
the repudiation of the new idea is that it would cause us 
pain if it were true. We would also feel that we had been 
dupes all our lives. We had been smugly following a 
pleasant delusion that brought us some happiness and 
suddenly we see our bubble pricked. We had been fol- 
lowing a course of thinking and conduct, that is now im- 



196 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

peached by the new discovery. If a man has written 
several books on miracles, original sin, and other dogmas, 
in which he believes, and has spent all his life studying 
the subjects, he could not accept a book which rejects his 
ideas; it would mean that he had wasted his life. His 
aversion to concur with the conclusions of that new book 
is nature's means of preventing him from suffering great 
pain; it is a defence action. If a preacher has advised 
thousands of couples who were unhappy not to divorce 
and not to remarry some one with whom they might have 
been happy, he would be the last man to see the great- 
ness of a work that shows divorce may be a humane 
and beneficial act in some cases, for it would mean that 
he would have to admit he has ruined the lives of many 
people. 

The real objection by man to the Copernican theory 
was that it reflected on his religion and his vanity; it was 
annoying to hear that the earth was not the centre of 
the universe. The Darwinian theory was a still more 
painful discovery because it placed man among the de- 
scendants of animals and taught that he was a by-product 
like them. The facts, however, in both cases, were so 
overwhelming that many managed to accept them and 
still keep their religious beliefs intact, for these still give 
consolation. In spite of Copernicus and Darwin, we stilt 
live as if the world were the centre of the universe and 
man its most divine product. 

The most personal and human argument in favour of a 
belief in personal immortality of the soul, of communion 
with the dead or a Providential Personal God, is that life 
would be sad if these theories were not true; they must 
hence be true. Tennyson, in his In Memoriam, has the 
popular attitude. If life didn't live for ever more, then 
"earth is darkness at the core and dust and ashes all 



LITERARY CRITICISM 197 

that is." But our wishes must recede before logic and 
facts. 

A great idea, then, is not accepted if its conclusions are 
painful to us when a more pleasant idea has prevailed; 
every idea is rejected when its possible truth would mean 
that we have been living in error and wasting our lives. 
New ideas are nearly always made to fit in with the old 
views. 

The theory of evolution became acceptable only when 
it was demonstrated to the satisfaction of the religionists 
what at first did not seem apparent to them, that it in- 
terfered neither with a belief in a personal God, Chris- 
tianity nor the immortality of the soul. 

Literary men who are advanced are admired often for 
qualities that do not constitute their real greatness. The 
conservatives praise the daring poet for his style, after 
he has made his way; or they select a few of the minor 
ideas he champions and ignore the greater ones. They 
will not accept the Hardy who wrote Jude the Obscure, 
but the Hardy of Far From the Maddening Crowd; they 
will admire the early harmless lyrics of John Davidson 
instead of the profound testaments and later plays, whose 
real greatness was shown by Dr. Hayim Fineman in his 
monograph on John Davidson.^ They praise Swinburne 
for his melody, Ibsen for his technique and Shaw for his 
wit, but can see no intellectual value either in the Songs 
Before Sunrise, or Peer Gynt, or Man and Superman. 
They overlook the value of Byron's Don Juan or Cain, 
because these works contain ideas that hurt most, and in- 
stead they lavish compliments on harmless descriptions 
like the address to the ocean, or the account of the battle 
of Waterloo. They like Shelley's lyrics and see nothing 
in his ideas. 

* Published by the University of Pennsylvania. 



198 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

The "conspiracy of silence" that has often greeted 
many great men was at times unconscious. People are 
not prone by nature to investigate something which might 
bring painful results. They prefer to let it alone alto- 
gether. The motive of ignoring a great book is founded 
on one of displeasure. Hence morbid and pessimistic 
books, revolutionary ideas, iconoclastic views on reli- 
gion, morals or philosophy, new discoveries in science, 
encounter opposition. We do not want to be disturbed 
in our complacency. For the disturbance is, after all, 
made by those who do not fit into the old order; their 
own discoveries are defence processes. But gradually it 
is seen that these writers express universal wants. 

The opposition met by all investigations in the subject 
of sex, is an example of man's effort to thrust painful 
things out of sight. The barrier raised against Freud 
himself rises largely from three leading ideas of his, those 
on the sexual significance of symbols in dreams and the 
attributing of neurosis to sexual causes, and the theory 
that the infant has a sexual life of its own. In spite of 
his broad use of the term sexual and his many demonstra- 
tions of the truth of these ideas, man does not want to 
believe them. Jung and Adler, who lay little stress on the 
sexual element, have made the theory of psychoanalysis 
acceptable to many; but Freud objects to the use of the 
word psychoanalysis by disciples who have taken out of 
his theory something he considers essential. 



CHAPTER XIV 

KEATS 'S PERSONAL LOVE POEMS 



Stress has never been laid on the real unconscious 
origins of some of Keats's best poems. We know that his 
sad love affair with Fanny Brawne, who coquetted with 
him, inspired a few poems directly addressed to her; it 
is also indisputable that Keats had her in mind when 
he wrote La Belle Dame Sans Merci, he was telling of 
his own fate in the account of the knight's mishap. But 
it is rarely recognised that emotions connected with 
Fanny Brawne inspired his two most famous odes, the 
one to the Nightingale and the other to the Grecian urn; 
that the tale of Lamia, which ranks among his best poems, 
is a symbolic description of his attitude towards Miss 
Brawne, and that her presence is felt in other poems 
and sonnets by Keats. He thought of her constantly, 
and he could scarcely write a love poem but she some- 
how or other stepped into the pages. When we compare 
these and other poems to the letters that he had written 
to her about the same time, we will find that often the 
same emotions inspired both. 

Keats met Miss Brawne in the fall of 1818, when he 
was twenty-three years old. He quarrelled with her in 
February, 18 19, but, nevertheless, was her declared lover 
in the spring. His first love letter that we have to her is 
dated July i, 1819, and the last about May, 1820. In 

199 



200 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

the spring and summer of 1 8 19 he wrote some of his best 
poems, and he showed most emphatically the repression 
of his emotions by the coquetries of Fanny. He took a 
walk among the marbles of the British Museum, in Feb- 
ruary, 1 819, and three months later penned his Ode to 
a Grecian Urn. In the latter part of April he heard 
the nightingale in Brown's garden, and he wrote the 
famous ode. In the same month he also wrote La Belle 
Dame Sans Merci. In August and September of 1819 
he worked on Lamia. He had his first hemorrhage in 
February, 1820, left England in September, and died in 
Italy February, 1821. 

Those who have read the letters to Fanny will remem- 
ber with what anxiety the poet wrote, how he showed his 
jealousy and complained and pleaded without pride. In 
one letter dated June 19, 18 19, he said he would resent 
having his heart made a football, that Brown, with whom 
she flirted, was doing him to death by inches, and that the 
air of a room from which Fanny was absent was un- 
healthy to him. "I appeal to you by the blood of that 
Christ you believe in. . . . Do not write to me if you 
have done anything this month which it would have 
pained me to have seen." In October he writes, "Love 
is my religion — I could die for that; I could die for you." 
The letters are the record of the agony of a man who is 
being played with and who cries out in helplessness. He 
cannot bear seeing her smiling with others or dancing 
with them. Miss Brawne asserted after his death that 
she did not regard him as a great poet, and thought it 
advisable for people to let his reputation die. It is also 
said she referred to him as the foolish poet who loved her. 

Let us see how this sad affair influenced his work. 

The Keats of the first volume, Poems, 181 7, is a much 
different person from the Keats of the Lamia volume, in 



KEATS'S PERSONAL LOVE POEMS 201 

1820. The three intervening years had brought a mad- 
dening love affair, a fatal disease and the famous, though 
not as once thought fatal review, attacking Endymion. 
His art principles remained much the same. With grow- 
ing sorrow he worshipped beauty more and sought in it 
a refuge from grief. His attitude towards women and life 
was now somewhat different. He paid woman a tribute 
in the poem in the first volume, beginning with the lines, 
"Woman! I behold thee," etc. But he had not yet suf- 
fered from a Fanny Brawne; here he spoke of woman's 
being "like a milk-white lamb that bleats for man's pro- 
tection." And yet before he was twenty he may have had 
a foreboding that his fate in love might not be a happy 
one. In the poem. To Hope, he wrote: 

"Should e'er unhappy love my bosom pain, 
From cruel parents or relentless fair; 
O let me not think it is quite in vain 
To sigh out sonnets to the midnight air." 

Alas for himself, but perhaps (it may be cruel to say) 
fortunately for the lovers of literature, those sonnets and 
other poems were sighed out later! 

Before we can, however, quite understand his sad life 
and the nature of his work and philosophy, something 
must be said about his relations to his mother. She died 
from consumption when he was past fourteen. Keats, 
who was her favourite child, sat up nights, mourn- 
ing her, and was inconsolable; he would hide for 
days under his master's desk. Once, at the 
age of five, he guarded her sick room with 
a sword. His mother re-married a year after her 
husband's death, when the poet was in his tenth year. 
She separated from her second husband and went to live 
with her mother. Keats then had a guardian. The poet 



202 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

was the oldest of five children, and was a seven months' 
child. All this is significant. The (Edipus Complex was 
strong in the poet. He was not only deprived of his 
mother early, but witnessed her marry a second time. 
This event revived the babyish jealousy he felt of his 
father, and made him unconsciously hate the new husband. 
He looked for a substitute for the lost mother and thought 
he found her in Fanny Brawne, and then be learned what 
grief was. He loved beauty so much because of unre- 
quited love. Some poets, like Wordsworth, seek conso- 
lation in nature for lack of love, others like Byron simply 
voice their woe in a personal note, others like Shelley 
find it a spur to spread views of reform in connection 
with the marriage institution. Keats's love of beauty 
has a strong sexual component. His unfulfilled physical 
desires were sublimated into poems worshipping beauty. 
Art was his refuge. 

We are now prepared to trace the origins of some of his 
work. Most critics saw the unconscious allusions in the 
La Belle Dame poem. It is symbolic of himself in 
the snares of a coquette. There is an allusion to an old 
song entitled La Belle Dame Sans Merci in Keats's 
The Eve of St. Agnes which Porphyro played to Made- 
line while she slept; it was a poem composed in Pro- 
vence; and we all know that most of the love poems of 
the Provengal Troubadours were complaints about unre- 
quited love. Keats's poem has a simple plot. A knight 
tells the poet, in response to a question as to why he 
was so woe-begone, that he met a fairy child and set her 
on his pacing steed. She claimed to love him, and she 
lulled him to sleep and he dreamed that pale kings and 
princes and warriors told him that he was in the thrall 
of a girl without mercy. They were evidently also her 



KEATS'S PERSONAL LOVE POEMS 203 

victims. He wakes and loiters on the cold hill side, 
realising that he was her victim. 

This poem was written within a few months before 
the letter to Fanny was penned, in which he said he re- 
sented having his heart made a football. The poem cor- 
responds to an anxiety dream. Freud tells us that the 
contents of the anxiety dream is of a sexual nature; the 
libido has been turned away from its object, and, not 
having succeeded in being applied, has been transformed 
into fear. This poem is a good proof of this one of the 
least-understood theories of Freud. Keats then is the 
knight and Fanny is the fairy child. 

The nature of his day dreams and jealousy appears in 
the Ode to Fanny y a posthumous poem, probably not 
meant for publication. It contains some of the sub- 
stance of his letters to Fanny. He imagines he is watch- 
ing Fanny at a dance, and jealous thoughts come to him. 
"Who now with greedy looks eats up my feast?" he asks. 
His only remedy is to write poetry to ease his pain. He 
says to Physician Nature, "O, ease my heart of verse and 
let me rest." He loves her so much he cannot bear that 
any one profane her with looks. He wants her wholly, 
her thoughts and emotions. The poem was probably 
written about the time of the quarrel, in February, 18 19, 

Another posthumous poem addressed to Fanny is the 
one beginning with the lines, "What can I do to drive 
away remembrance from my eyes?" He is now wishing 
he were free from love, and that he had his old liberty. 
He wants to devote himself to his muse as freely as he 
once did. He thinks of wine as he did in the nightingale 
poem, and asks: "Shall I gulp wine? No, that is vulgar- 
ism." He is in hell, he realises, but he concludes with a 
wish to satisfy his physical love for Fanny. He wants 
to rest his soul on her dazzling breast, to place his arm 



204 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

about her waist, and feel her warm breath spread a rapture 
in his hair. In a posthumously published sonnet he 
pleads, "I cry to you for mercy"; he wants her entirely, 
including "that warm, white, lucent, million-pleasured 
breast." In the sonnet he wrote (not before his death, as 
usually thought but as Colvin says, in February, 1819), 
in a blank page in a volume of Shakespeare facing "A 
Lover's Complaint," "Bright star, would I were stead- 
fast as thou art," he concludes most sensuously. He 
longs to be: 

"Pillowed upon my fair love's ripening breast, 
To feel forever its soft fall and swell, 
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath. 
And so live forever — or else swoon to death." 

All this shows that Keats's love was not one where 
the reason or moral sense played a great part; it was not 
tender or kindly, but a madness, and more than usually 
physical. There can be no doubt, from the evidence given 
by Keats, that he indulged in reveries of physical satis- 
faction with Fanny in day dreams. 

Keats has himself written that he had sensuous night 
dreams. He wrote in April, 1819, apropos the sonnet, 
A Dream, after reading Dante's Episode of Paolo and 
Francesca: "The dream was one of the most delightful 
enjoyments I had in my life. I floated about the wheel- 
ing atmosphere, as it is described, with a beautiful figure, 
to whose lips mine were joined, it seemed for an age; 
and in the midst of all this cold and darkness I was 
warm." A flying dream always has a sexual significance, 
even without any female figure to accompany the 
dreamer. Of course this figure was Fanny Brawne to 
whom he had just been or was about to be betrothed. 



KEATS'S PERSONAL LOVE POEMS 205 



We now come to his two greatest odes, the one to the \ 
Grecian Urn and the other to the Nightingale. /Both 
were written in the spring of iSip./^In both Fanny 
Brawne is with the poet though there fs no direct mention 
of his love for her or his troubles with her. The lines 
in the Ode to a Grecian Urn that particularly were writ- 
ten with Fanny in mind are those addressed to the lover | 
of the Grecian Urn. 

"Bold Lover, never, never, canst thou kiss. 
Though winning near the goal — yet do not grieve; 
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, 
For ever wilt thou love and she be fair." 

Keats saw a resemblance between himself and that 
youth. He, too, was winning and near the goal, and he 
no more had her love than did the youth on the urn. 
He himself knew the passion 

"That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd, 
A burning forehead and a parching tongue." 

He had to accept his lot and pretend to see some ad- 
vantage in it as he did in that of the youth on the urn: 

"More happy love! more happy, happy love! 
For ever warm and still to be enjoyed. 
For ever panting, and for ever young." 

The poem is the song of unsatisfied desires. Keats, 
frustrated in his love, had one resource, to make poetry 
and create beauty out of his sorrow. To the future he 
too would be like that lover created by an ancient artist, 
panting for love ever young. The poem has such great 
appeal because it strikes a note in us all. 






2o6 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

In the Ode to the Nightingale we also see evidence 
of his love sadness because of Fanny. He expresses a 
wish to go away with the bird from scenes 

"Where youth grows pale, and spectre thin, and dies; 
Where beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes, 
Or new love pine at them beyond to-morrow." 

The nightingale has not known like him 

"The weariness, the fever and the fret 
Here where men sit and hear each other groan." 

Miss Brawne had embittered his life and hence he must 
fly at least in fancy through poetry with the bird. Again 
he finds consolation for his unhappy love in poetry. 

He has been half in love with death, he has thought of 
taking to drink ; he expressed both these ideas in previous 
poems. He is reminded that the nightingale's song was 
heard by Ruth, because love is uppermost in his mind. 
But he knows his fancied flight with the bird must end 
shortly. He will soon come back to his real self with 
the vexing thoughts of Fanny. 

"Adieu the fancy cannot cheat so well 
As she is famed to do, deceivmg elf." 

Then the music ceased, and he is back on earth again. 

The unconscious sex symbolism in the wish to fly with 
the nightingale is a further proof of his unsatisfied love. 

The motive of both these great poems was then sup- 
plied by his unsatisfactory love affair, but critics have 
not openly asserted the fact. It wasn't a mere walk in 
the British Museum or in Brown's garden that gave birth 
to the poems. These events merely incited him to put 
on paper the poems which had already for some time 
past fermented in his unconscious and were really pro- 
, duced by his repressed love for Fanny. Had he been 



KEATS'S PERSONAL LOVE POEMS 207 

kappy in love, it is very likely we would never have had 
these poems. They are as personal as the poems previ- 
ously mentioned addressed directly to Fanny, as La 
Belle Dame, and the sonnet written in the fly leaf of 
Shakespeare. The same unhappy longings gave rise to 
them all, and they were all written within a few months 
of each other, though I have no evidence as to the date of 
the sonnet and the lines to Fanny. 

But it is in a long poem where Fanny is chiefly pres- 
ent unconsciously, in Lamia. We have here the tale of 
Lamia, a beautiful woman, who is a metamorphosed 
serpent ensnaring Lycius of Corinth by her beauty. 
Fanny is Lamia the serpent woman, Lycius of Corinth is 
Keats himself. Lycius is about to marry Lamia, as 
Keats was also thinking of marrying Fanny. It should, 
by the way, be borne in mind that the period of the 
writing of Lamia corresponds with the date of the first 
published despairing letters of Keats to Fanny, the 
summer and fall of 18 19. It would be a rare miracle if 
during this time he could have kept thoughts of his 
sweetheart out of his work. Unconsciously he felt she 
acted like a serpent, and hence he drew her as such. 

Lycius did not want his teacher Apollonius, the philos- 
opher, at the feast. But the preceptor did come, an im- 
bidden guest, and told Lycius who this beautiful woman 
really was. Lycius died of disappointment. Keats did 
not wish to be told the truth about Fanny's lack of char- 
acter, and thus be disillusioned. He felt that he too 
would die, hence he fears facts and asks: "Do not 
all charms fly at the touch of cold philosophy?" In 
this question we see already he suspects the nature of 
Fanny. But he will not believe his uncertain suspicions 
nor investigate them. It is the voice of his own uncon- 
scious that he hears in these words of his preceptor: 



2o8 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

" 'Fool ! Fool !' repeated he, while his eyes still 
Relented not, nor moved ; 'from every ill 
In life have I preserved thee to this day, 
And shall I see thee made a serpent's prey?'" 

He attacks Fanny in his description of Lamia's plead- 
ing, whose beauty smote while it guaranteed to save. 
He tells of the meshes in which he struggled. That he 
published the poem in his lifetime is evidence that he 
himself was not altogether aware he was analysing his 
own love affair and was abusing his fiancee. When he 
resolved to make a poem of the little tale he read in 
Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy it was his unconscious 
that chose the theme for him, recognising that he had 
many affinities in his life with that of the unfortunate 
Corinthian youth. The poem contains more of himself 
than any of his long poems. 

There are many other poems of Keats where the per- 
sonal element enters and where he tells us of his un- 
conscious. The affair with Fanny coloured his entire 
work after he met her. He also knew and admired an- 
other girl about the time he met Fanny, whom he calls 
a Charmian ; she was a Miss Cox, but she did not greatly 
influence him. It is to the intense affection Keats had 
for his mother, of whom he was deprived in boyhood, and 
the unfortunate affair with Fanny, that we owe some of. 
his best literary work. 



CHAPTER XV 
Shelley's personal love poems 



Shelley's great love poems were inspired by love re- 
pressions, and it will be my province to try to trace some 
of the finest poems in the English language to their 
sources. 

His relations with women have been much criticised 
and also much misunderstood. The first thing unusual 
about his life is the slight influence his mother exerted 
upon him. Shelley, no doubt, loved his mother, but he re- 
ceived very little sympathy from her. As a result he be- 
came strongly attached to his sisters; in them he sought 
unconsciously for the mother he had all but lost. He was 
alienated from his father in boyhood, and there were def- 
inite clashes later. The poet was the oldest of six 
children. 

He loved his cousin, Harriet Grove, and was engaged 
to her. She broke the engagement on account of the 
views he entertained. Her parents influenced her in this 
action. It was Shelley's first love affair. The poet was 
in his nineteenth year when he was jilted; he slept 
with a loaded pistol and poison near him for some time 
after this. In January, 1811, in a letter to his friend, 
Hogg, he writes he would have followed Harriet to the 
end of the earth. He asks his friend never to mention 
her. He tells of a personal interview with Harriet 

209 



210 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

and laments that she is gone and that he still 
breathes and lives. On January ii he wrote: "She 
is gone! She is lost to me forever! She married! Mar- 
ried to a clod of earth ; she will become as insensible her- 
self; all those fine capabilities will moulder." She had, 
however, not yet married. It was the recollections of 
these acute sufferings that he later put into the mouth 
of the maniac in Jtdian and Maddalo; thob^ poignant 
ravings were for a half century regarded as impersonal, 
and were never thought to be directed against a real 
woman whom he loved. 

In the latter part of March, 1811, the poet was ex- 
pelled from Oxford for his pamphlet on atheism. In the 
meantime he had met Harriet Westbrook and married 
her, in a spirit of gallantry, in the latter part of August, 
1 811; he sympathised with her because of her sufferings 
at home. He also liked Elizabeth Hitchener at the time, 
and later asked her to come and live with his wife and 
himself. She did so about July, 181 2. Shelley's wife had 
no liking for her, so Miss Hitchener was practically 
bribed by the poet to leave. This she did in November. 
Shelley was disillusioned in her, and he really had very 
little in common with her, though she was intellectually 
superior to Harriet, Shelley's wife. 

In July, 1 8 14, Shelley deserted his wife. A few weeks 
later he left with Mary Godwin, with whom he had been 
friendly since the spring of the year. On December, 
18 1 6, Harriet committed suicide by drowning, while preg- 
nant. 

Shelley married his second wife legally December 30, 
181 6. He probably was not madly in love with her. 
Mention should be made of two cases of unreciprocated 
affection for him on the part of the poet's two sisters-in- 
law, Fanny Godwin, who committed suicide, and Jane 



SHELLEY'S PERSONAL LOVE POEMS 211 

Clairmont, the daughter of Mrs. Godwin by a previous 
marriage, and also known as the mistress of Byron. 

The two women whom Shelley loved after his marriage 
and who inspired some of his best poetry were Emilia 
Vivian! and Mrs. James Williams. Shelley met Miss 
Viviani about December, 1820. That winter he wrote 
the Epipsychidion, which was a love poem to her; here 
he also told us the history of his love affairs. In June, 
1822, he refers to his disillusionment with her. About 
this time his feeling for his friend's wife, Mrs. Williams, 
overpowered him, and he wrote a number of lyrics to her. 
He was drowned July 8, 1822, with Mr. Williams. 

Shelley never had a satisfactory love affair in his life. 
He was discarded by his first love, for whom his affec- 
tion was strong. He did not love his first wife at all, 
and his second wife did not give him that satisfaction in 
love for which he craved. Hence he yearned after 
others. His new affairs brought him no happiness, as he 
was disillusioned in his Emilia, while Mrs. Williams was 
married to his friend; social intercourse was for a while 
stopped between Shelley and the Williamses on account 
of Shelley's love. Two other women who cared for him 
did not attract him. This whole state of affairs led to 
some of his best poems, brought out some of his views 
on free love, and influenced his lyrics. We will exam- 
ine how his poetry arose from the depths of his uncon- 
scious. 

Julian and Maddalo was first sketched in 18 14. The 
maniac's soliloquy, which is one of the most forceful out- 
cries of love disappointment in poetry, inspired by per- 
sonal experience, and is, with Swinburne's The Triumph 
of Time, among the greatest of all such products in lit- 
erature, is Shelley's own outburst. It is his full fury cast 
at Harriet Grove, and was not, as surmised by Arabella 



212 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

Shore (Gentleman's Magazine [1887], v. 263, p. 329). 
and H. S. Salt (Shelley Society Papers [1888], p. 325), 
directed against his first wife. He never loved her as 
that maniac loved; besides, it was not true of Harriet 
Westbrook that she ceased to love Shelley. It is said 
that the poet believed her guilty of adultery while living 
with him, but even if this were so (and we have no evi- 
dence to warrant such a belief), the poet had been cast- 
ing longing eyes at Mary Godwin, his future second wife, 
for some time before he left his first wife; we have no 
proof that the poet was heartbroken after he left Harriet 
Westbrook, though he sympathised with her. 

His affair with Harriet Grove was not the ephemeral 
thing that William Sharp deems it, in his biography of the 
poet. For even when married to Harriet Westbrook, he 
was still chagrined about the first Harriet. When Miss 
Grove married a cousin in the fall of 181 1, a few months 
after his own marriage, the poet wrote to her brother, 
asking how he liked his brother-in-law, and added sar- 
castically and bitterly, "A new brother as well as a new 
cousin must be an invaluable acquisition." This was in 
October 28, 181 1. Harriet Grove's conduct had caused 
him to spend many sleepless nights, and only a few 
months before his marriage to Miss Westbrook he had 
suicidal thoughts. He wrote sad love verses and a com- 
plaint cgainst love's perfidy. Captain Kennedy describes 
Shelley, in June, 18 13, as playing on the piano a favourite 
tune which Harriet Grove used to play for him. (Dow- 
den's Life of Shelley, p. 390.) It was in the next year 
that he sketched the poem, Jidian and Maddala, and 
while it is likely that in the final version, which was 
written four years later though published after his 
death, unconscious emotions regarding Harriet West- 
brook were fused into the poem along with the indig- 



SHELLEY'S PERSONAL LOVE POEMS 213 

nation at Harriet Grove. The reference to the tomb 
for which the lady addressed in the poem deserted 
the poet, may have been suggested by the dead Harriet 
Westbrook; but this fact is not sufficient reason for re- 
garding her the subject of the poem, as Miss Shore and 
Mr. Salt do. We should look for truth beyond such in- 
cidental references. The pain in this poem is the memory 
of a far greater and earlier agony than that Shelley ex- 
perienced by Harriet Westbrook's infidelity; rather of 
the grief that Harriet Grove caused him. The passages 
in the letters to Hogg prove that the poet's sorrow was 
too keen for him to forget; he could not help but put 
them unconsciously in this poem. 

There are references to Harriet Grove in Epipsychidion 
written in the early winter of 1821. Mr. Flea, in an 
article on The Story of Shelley's Life in Epipsychidion, 
contends correctly that Harriet Grove is the "one with 
the voice which was envenomed melody," from whose 
cheeks flew a killing air which lay upon the leaves of the 
poet's heart and made him feel the ruins of age. The 
bitterness of this passage is equal to that in Julian and 
Maddalo, and hence the lines do not refer to some vulgar 
affair as some critics think. 

Shelley had written some of his earliest sad and lugu- 
brious love poems to Harriet Grove, and they appeared in 
1 8 10, in the volume Victor and Cazir, a copy of which 
book the poet presented to Harriet Grove. In the No- 
vember of the same year, when he was losing her, 
he published Posthumous fragments of Margaret Nichol- 
son, and the concluding poem, "Melody to a Scene of 
Former Times," has all the pain of the Maniac's solilo- 
quy in Julian and Maddalo, and was, no doubt, written 
to Harriet Grove. It has passages of reproach like those 
in that poem. 



214 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

The best-known lines in the latter poem are: 

"Most wretched men 
Are cradled into poetry by wrong; 
They learn in suffering what they teach in song." 

The reader may think that it is utterly insignificant 
whether the Julian poem was written about the first Har- 
riet instead of the second, but this is just as important 
as to know that, let us say, Arthur Hallam, and not some 
one else, is the person mourned by Tennyson in In 
Memoriam. And we are enabled to learn the influence 
upon his work and ideas when we understand the nature 
of the earliest sex repression in the poet's life. This af- 
fair in Shelley's nineteenth year was of vast import; it 
made the Shelley we know, the enemy of society and the 
reformer. 

He hated intolerance, religion and monarchy because 
by his heterodoxy and the offence it gave to Harriet 
Grove's parents, he lost her; not to mention that he also 
lost his mother's love for his radical views. He saw the 
world steeped in error, and he believed this condition 
made him lose the love of his betrothed and of his 
mother. He wrote to Hogg that he would never forgive 
intolerance. "It is the only p)oint on which I allow my- 
self to encourage revenge; every moment shall be devoted 
to my object which I am able to spare." Here in the 
words of this youth we see the main factor which led to 
writing Prometheus Unbound and The Revolt of Islam. 
His plans shaped themselves at the time of the jilting, 
and he never swerved from them. And in the opening 
stanzas of the eleventh canto of the Islam poem he again 
describes the agonies of his lost love, with Harriet Grove 
in mind, no doubt. This poem was written in the sum- 
mer of 1817. Shelley then became an uncompromising 



SHELLEY'S PERSONAL LOVE POEMS 215 

reformer because he had suffered in love for his radical 
ideas; hence he would make it his aim to spread the 
views which he held so that in the future other lovers 
should not lose their sweethearts because of liberal no- 
tions. And in the Ode to the West Wind Shelley's 
prayer is to spread his ideas over the universe. 

Though the poet wrote a few good poems to Harriet 
Westbrook and dedicated Queen Mab to her, she had 
little or no influence on his life except to bring him sor- 
row because of her suicide. One of the few references 
to her in his later work is in the Epipsychidion, "And 
one was true — oh! why not true to me?" Stopford 
Brooke thinks this refers to Harriet Grove, but this is not 
likely, as Shelley continues, "there shone again deliver- 
ance," and he speaks of one who was to him like the 
Moon. The Moon was, of course, his second wife, Mary 
Godwin, who immediately succeeded Harriet Westbrook. 



The Epipsychidion tells us of the poet's love adven- 
tures and gives us his beautiful dream of love. In Alastor 
he had depicted his longing for love ; the poem was writ- 
ten in 181 5 at the time he was living with Harriet West- 
brook; it shows how lonely he felt and how he longed for 
love. In Epipsychidion, where he speaks of his lying 
"within a chaste, cold bed," he says that he had not the 
full measure of love from his second wife. Hence he took 
refuge in building a fanciful isle where he satisfies his 
love with Emilia Viviani. In this great poem Shelley 
gives us a glimpse into his polygamously inclined uncon- 
scious. He states his philosophy of free love in the 
poem. As physical desire was a strong factor in Keats 's 
one solitary love, the trait most characteristic of Shelley 



2i6 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

was his polygamous instinct. This is present in the un- 
conscious of the male, and society has tried to eradicate 
it by marriage. We all know that there has never been 
complete success in this direction. The instinct which is 
repressed bursts forth especially when the marriage has 
not been successful, or when the man does not love his 
wife in full measure, though as the world is aware it 
breaks out even in cases where he does love. Neither 
of Shelley's two marriages gave him the real love he 
sought. He wanted other women to live in his house- 
hold. He invited Miss Titchener to live with him 
and Harriet Westbrook, and he had Jane Clairmont, his 
wife's half sister, who fell in love with him, live with 
them. He thought he would be happy with Miss Viviani, 
but was disillusioned with her soon, and then his polyga- 
mous instinct made Mrs. Jane WilHams the object of his 
affections. Yet Shelley led a chaste, upright life and did 
not satisfy his instincts for polygamy; instead, he wrote 
poetry. He created fantasies because of his repressions, 
and gave us the beautiful day dream closing the Epi- 
psychidion. 

Mrs. Williams inspired some of the greatest lyrics in 
the language. The painful poem to her husband begin- 
ning with the words, "The serpent is shut out from para- 
dise," tells how he flies because Mrs. Williams's looks 
stir griefs that should sleep and hopes that cannot die. 
The world owes to Shelley's attachment for Mrs. Wil- 
liams such poems as. Rarely, Rarely, Comest Thou, 
Spirit of Delight, One Word Is too Often Profaned, When 
the Lamp is Shattered, Oh, World! Oh, Hope! Oh, Time! 
Rough Wind, That Moanest Loud, With a Guitar, To 
Jane, To Jane — the Invitation, To Jane — the Recollec- 
tion, Remembrance, Lines Written in the Bay of Lerici, 
and The Magnetic Lady to Her Patient. Here are a 



SHELLEY'S PERSONAL LOVE POEMS 217 

dozen poems that every lover of Shelley knows, yet they 
are the outpourings of the poet's love for another man's 
wife, written because he could not attain that love and 
satisfy his polygamous instincts. Had these instincts 
been satisfied, these beautiful poems would have been 
lost to the world. 

We now come to two of his greatest odes, To the 
WUd West Wind and To the Skylark. Here, as in 
the case of Keats's two great odes, the critics have feared 
to trace the poems to a love repression on the part of the 
poet. In fact, most criticisms of the poems treat them 
as alien to the subject of love. And yet unconsciously 
Shelley is here voicing his longing for love and giving 
vent to his unconscious polygamous instinct. Mr. Crib- 
ble, in his Romantic Life of Shelley, surmises that the 
poet is really unconsciously expressing dissatisfaction 
with his married life. When Shelley wrote these poems 
he was still groping for love; he lived with his sec- 
ond wife, and as far as we know had no love affair. He 
had not yet fallen in love with either Miss Viviani or 
Mrs. Williams. 

The Ode to the West Wind was written in the fall of 
1 8 19. The poet at the time was unhappy; a child of his 
had died, and his wife was suffering great depression. 
When the poet was complaining that he was falling on 
the thorns of life and bleeding, and speaking of the "au- 
tumnal tone" in his life, he was referring to the 
repression of his love life. He lived with Mary 
whom he did not love passionately. If he concludes 
his poem with the prayer that the wind drive his 
dead thoughts over the universe to quicken a new 
birth, he wants to profit by this in love. He unconsci- 
ously meant that if his ideas on free love should prevail, 
he would be able to take a new love without reproach 



2i8 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

and without suffering such misfortunes as he did when 
he deserted his first wife. He had been deprived of his 
children and was driven to exile from his native land a 
year and a half previously, March, 1818. It has been one 
of the ironies of Shelley's fate that the world has admired 
this West Wind ode greatly, and tabooed the most im- 
portant idea Shelley wanted spread, that of free love. So 
if we read between the lines in this great ode pleading 
for the dissemination of his idea, we find the poet's un- 
conscious stating he is unhappy and is longing for an- 
other love than that of his wife. He pleads for a satis- 
faction of his polygamous instincts. Should the reader 
think this conclusion untenable, I can reply that the 
facts we have of the poet's life give it unqualified sup- 
port. Let us also remember that the fructifying wind was 
always a sex symbol. 

It is the same with The Ode to the Skylark, written 
nearly a year later. He envies the bird its happiness. 
"Shadow of annoyance never came near thee," he says to 
it. "Thou lovest — but ne'er knew love's sad satiety." 
Here he betrays himself by a few words. He has had his 
satiety of love, and sad it was, without satisfying him. 
He doesn't love his present wife; he never cared deeply 
for his first wife; his first sweetheart rejected him; and 
he had been loved by girls he did not love. All these 
facts justify us in selecting the words, "love's sad satiety" 
and assigning them a definite meaning. Had we known 
nothing of the poet's biography we could not have 
spoken with such conviction. He sings "our sweetest 
songs are those that tell of saddest thought." His sad- 
dest thoughts have been those about the difficulties of 
finding love's ideal, and of loving another when pledged 
to some one else. Then we have the unconscious sex 



SHELLEY'S PERSONAL LOVE POEMS 219 

symbolism in the wish to be happy like the flying sing- 
ing bird. 

Psychoanalytic methods applied to Shelley reveal him 
then, in his love poems and in lyrics which were not sup- 
posed to deal with love, as a chaste man with polygamous 
inclinations and married to a woman he did not love 
passionately. There is a connection between this state 
of affairs and his interest in scattering liberal ideas. That 
he also mistook real love for platonic love may be seen 
by Epipsychidion and the poems to Mrs. Williams. Un- 
conscious love elements were at the basis of other poems 
of his, like the Ode ta Dejection. 

Alastor, Julian and Maddalo and Epipsychidion of the 
longer poems, his dozen lyrics inspired by love for Mrs. 
Williams, and his two famous odes represent the personal 
Shelley from the love side, and are among the greatest 
poems in any language. 

A few words should be said about Adonais, his great 
elegy on Keats. It is one of his personal poems, and 
among the best known lines are those describing himself, 
"who in another's fate wept his own." The critics who 
attacked the work of Keats, though they did not, as 
Shelley erroneously thought, drive Keats to death, were 
the very reviewers who attacked Shelley and his ideas. 
Even in this grand elegy Shelley was also bemoaning un- 
consciously his failure, and complaining that his ideas en 
free love, liberal religion and republicanism were attacked. 



CHAPTER XVI 

EDGAR ALLAN POE 



Edgar Allan Poe proves an interesting study from 
the point of view of psychoanalysis. He has been 
analysed by pathologists and psychologists, but there 
remains much to be said about the work of this baffling 
genius. I can take up only a few phases of the pathetic 
life and great work of Poe. 

One question that has interested critics is, what was the 
source of those mysterious ladies in his stories, the Ligeias, 
the Morellas, the Eleonoras? What made him so pre- 
occupied with the subject of the death of beautiful women 
long before his own wife died? All this brings us to a 
little emphasised chapter in Poe's life, the history of one 
of his love affairs before he married Virginia Clemm. Its 
influence on his work has hardly ever been noted by 
critics, and yet the effect was of great importance. 

Poe lost his parents when he was an infant, and he 
was adopted by Mr. Allan. He loved the mother of a 
friend of his, Mrs. Stannard, and when she died (he was 
1 5 at the time) , he was inconsolable. But the history of 
this boyish love is not fully known to us. As a boy of 
sixteen he loved Sarah Elmira Royster, whom he again 
met later in life and to whom he became engaged shortly 
before his death. At about the age of twenty or there- 

220 



EDGAR ALLAN POE 221 

after he loved his cousin, Miss Elizabeth Herring, and 
wrote several poems to her. 

The real clue to Poe's life and work is furnished in an 
article, "Poe's Mary," that appeared in Harper's Maga- 
zine for March, 1889, by Agustus Van Cleef. It reports 
a conversation with a woman who was Poe's sweetheart 
and who rejected him. Her name is now known to us as 
Mary Devereaux. The main facts of the article have 
not been questioned by his biographers. The substance 
of the interview is this: Mary Devereaux met Poe 
through a flirtation. Her memory did not serve her as 
to the date, which she put in 1835. But since Poe was 
betrothed to Virginia that year, and had been betrothed 
to her for some time, the date was probably 1832, as the 
author of the article surmises, though Killis Campbell 
believes the year was 1831. Mary returned the poet's 
love, and he called on her almost every evening for a 
year. She jilted him, and Poe horsewhipped a relation 
of hers as being responsible for his loss. He wrote for 
a Baltimore paper a poem of six or eight verses express- 
ing his indignant sentiments. This passion continued 
with Poe, buried in his unconscious, even after he married 
Virginia Clemm. The day before Virginia died, in 1847, 
Mary was at the Poe household, and Virginia said to her: 
"Be a friend to Eddie, and don't forsake him; he always 
loved you — didn't you, Eddie?" 

There is an account in the article of a scene that oc- 
curred in the spring of 1842. Poe tried at the time to see 
Mary, who was then a married woman, at her home in 
Jersey City. He reproached her and shouted that she did 
not love her husband, and he tried to force her to corrobo- 
rate his words. He had been inquiring for her, and made 
up his mind he would see her even "if he had to go to 
hell" to do it. When he saw her, he was somewhat 



222 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

scx)thed, and she sang to him his favourite song, "Come 
Rest in This Bosom." She had sung this for him in the 
early days, and also at a visit she paid him in Philadel- 
phia not long before his Jersey City visit. After this epi- 
sode at her home the poet was found in the woods wan- 
dering about like one crazy. 

Mary Devereaux scoffed at the idea that the poet's 
child wife was the great passion of his life. It was 
always known, in spite of Poe's tenderness for Virginia, 
that he never found intellectual companionship in her. 
Poe* married Virginia in May, 1836, when he was 27 
and she 14 years old. He was living in 1833 with the 
Clemms in Baltimore, and had taken out a marriage 
license on September 22, 1835, but Virginia was then too 
young for marriage. 

The relation of Mary to his work will soon appear. I 
wish to show first that the splendid love poem, To One 
in Paradise, appearing in the tale The Assignation, was, 
with the story, inspired by Mary. Visionary, the original 
title of The Assignation, appeared with the poem in Jan- 
uary, 1834, in Godey's Lady's Book, and hence was writ- 
ten in 1833, or before. It was among the tales submitted 
in the prize contest that year in which Poe was success- 
ful with one of his stories. When Poe later obtained em- 
ployment on The Southern Literary Messenger, he re- 
printed here some of his tales; this tale was reprinted in 
July, 1835. The clue comes now. In the same number 
of the Messenger there is a poem entitled To Mary, by 
Poe, beginning, "Mary amid the cares — the woes," which 
in sentiments and ideas is but another version of To One 
in Paradise in the Visionary. This poem To Mary ap- 
pears in Poe's poetical works under the title To F . 

He reprinted this poem, which was originally written to 
his love Mary, in Graham's Magazine for March, 1842, 



EDGAR ALLAN POE 223 

and changed the first line and called the poem no longer 
To Mary, but To One Departed, very suggestive of 
the To One in Paradise. Poe, who would make a poem 
written to one lady serve, by a few changes in its text, 
for another later woman friend, gave this poem its present 
title. To F , when he reprinted it in the 1845 Broad- 
way Journal in honour of the poet Frances S. Osgood, 
whom he met that year * 

If we compare To One in Paradise with To F 

there will be no doubt that they were inspired by the 
same person and written at the same time, 1833, when 
the affair with Mary was over. In both poems references 
are made to his sweetheart being an isle in the sea and 
covered with flowers over which the sun smiles. In each 
poem mention is made of the desolate condition of the 
poet who derives happiness from living in dreams con- 
nected with her. To F is not as perfect as the 

other, but the idea underlying each poem is the same. 
The sonnet To Zante also has the same imagery, and 
was written, no doubt, at the same time to Mary. 

To One in Paradise is supposed to be written by the 
lover in the story Assignation, in which it appears. It 
will be recalled that the lover of Marchesa Aphrodite in 
that tale had written the poem in a volume of Politian's 
tragedy, a page of which was blotted with tears. Poe is 
that lover and Marchesa Aphrodite is Mary. But we 

♦He honoured Mrs. Osgood in the same way by republishing 
another poem from the Southern Literary Messenger of Sep- 
tember, 1835, written for some Eliza and opening "Eliza, let 
thy generous heart." This poem in the poetical works of Poe 
bears the title, "Lines Written in an Album." It originally 
was written, Woodberry surmises, to his employer's daughter, 
Eliza White, though Whitty believes it was addressed to his 
future wife, Virginia Eliza Clemm. Yet it is very likely the 
poem was written to one of his early sweethearts, Elizabeth 
Herring. 



224 The erotic motive in literature 

know also that Poe is the author of the poem Scenes 
from PolUian, which was written about the time he 
loved Mary. It was published in the Southern Literary 
Messenger in December, 1835. In these scenes Poe iden- 
tified himself with Politian, who loves Lalage and asks 
her to fly to America. "Wilt thou fly to that Paradise?" 
he asks her. The reference to Politian in Assignation is 
then significant, and the tears on the leaf of the play 
shed by the lover of Marchesa Aphrodite, the dreamer, 
were Poe's own for his lost Mary. The poet looked upon 
her as dead to him, and hence in a later version of the 

poem to her. To F , he changes the title to To One 

Departed; when he wrote To One in Paradise he 
looked upon her as dead. Mary was, by the way, a name 
that haunted him, and in his Marginalia he advances his 
belief in the correct theory that Byron's only real love 
affair was with Mary Chaworth. 

I am not so dogmatic as to maintain that in writing the 
Assignation and the three poems I mentioned, and the 
Politan scenes, his other earlier loves did not un- 
consciously make themselves felt. Killis Campbell thinks 
To One in Paradise and the sonnet To Zante were 
written to Miss Royster. Poe may also have been think- 
ing of the mother of his friend who died, in the poem To 
One in Paradise. But it is most likely that his love for 
Mary chiefly inspired these poems. They were certainly 
not written to Virginia, for in 1833 she was only 11 years 
old. 

The poem to Mary Devereaux, supposed to have been 
written for a Baltimore paper, may, as Woodberry sur- 
mises, be the To F poem, although it is not so 

severe as Mary said the poem he wrote against her was. 
Either her memory failed her as to the alleged severity of 
the poem, or the poem has not been discovered. A poem 



EDGAR ALLAN POE 225 

by Poe was only recently unearthed by Prof. J. C. 
French, of Johns Hopkins University, and printed in the 
Dial for January 31, 191 8. It was called Serenade, 
and was published in the Baltimore Visiter, April 20, 
1833. The girl addressed is given a fictitious name, Ade- 
line. Whether she is Mary or not I cannot venture to 
say with certainty, but most likely she is. It was pub- 
lished when the affair was probably over, and may have 
been written at the height of his love a year previously. 
Here are some lines from it: 

"And earth, and stars, and sea, and sky 
Are redolent of sleep as I 
Am redolent of thee and thine 
Enthralling love, my Adeline, 
But list, O list, — so soft and low 
Thy lover's voice to-night shall flow 
That scarce awake thy soul shall deem 
My words the music of a dream." 

The lover in Assignation, in which To One in Para- 
dise appeared then is Poe, and his dreamy character is 
in accordance with all the other self portrayals we have 
of the poet. The description of the Marchesa, no doubt, 
was inspired by Mary. 

I think that the tale of Ligeia, which Poe considered his 
best story, was unconsciously inspired by Mary, and it 
hence calls for a new interpretation. It was published 
in September, 1838, two years after he married Virginia; 
but the poet's memories still hearken back to Mary. She 
is the dead Ligeia, and his wife, Virginia, is the Lady 
Rowena, whom the narrator married after Ligeia died. 
The story of Ligeia was suggested by a dream. The 
poem The Conqueror Worm did not originally appear 
in the body of the tale. The narrator's memory, we will 
recall, flew back to the dead Ligeia; he called her name 



226 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

in dreams ; ever after Rowena was dead he had a thousand 
memories of Ligeia. The emphasis throughout the tale 
on the love for the departed Ligeia which will not die 
shows the real love the poet felt for Mary, about whom 
he was thinking. The narrator imagines that the dead 
Ligeia put a poison into the cup of his second wife, Lady 
Rowena, and that thus the latter dies. He then sinks 
into visions of Ligeia. He imagines that the corpse of his 
wife becomes alive, and as he looks at it, it is transformed 
into "my lost love" Ligeia. In other words, the dead 
love still lives and will not die; it is not forgotten, and 
haunts the poet, just as love for Mary haunted him. The 
quotation from Glanvil that man does not yield to death, 
applies as well to dead love. 

In this tale we see then the unconscious influence which 
an earlier love held on Poe. It is a tale of dead 
love as much as of death. 

Mary enters into another famous tale where her pres- 
ence was never suspected, in Eleonora. It has been 
thought that Eleonora was the poet's wife, Virginia, but 
the tale of the "Valley of Many Colored Grass" refers 
to the happy days when he courted Mary, and the sad 
change when Eleonora died, that took place in the Valley, 
describes the poet's grief when Mary jilted him. The 
story appeared in 1841 in The Gift for 1842. Whether 
it was written before Virginia burst a blood vessel, in 
1 84 1, as is likely, or afterwards, matters not. For in 
the tale, which was certainly written six years before Vir- 
ginia died, the narrator thinks of a second marriage after 
the death of Eleonora, and Poe was surely not thinking 
of a second marriage in 1841. We recall in the tale that 
the narrator had vowed never to love or marry again 
after he lost Eleonora, but he does — he marries Ermen- 
grade, who is really Virginia, since Eleonora is Mary. The 



EDGAR ALLAN POE 227 

narrator believes he hears the voice of Eleonora forgiving 
him for his marriage. The poet tells us then in this tale 
that in spite of his great love for Mary he was able after 
her rejecting him, still to care for and marry some one 
else. 

The strongest passion of his youth was Mary and not 
Miss Royster. When he became engaged later in life 
to Miss Royster it was due to worldly reasons, and he 
once broke the engagement. I believe that the fact that 
Poe and his wife were cousins and that she burst a blood- 
vessel gave rise to the theory that Eleonora, who is a 
cousin of the narrator, was Virginia. 

Another earlier tale of the period of Assignation and 
submitted in the prize contest at Baltimore, and hence 
written by 1833, is Morella. In Morella, Mary is still 
present in the person of the first Morella, whom the nar- 
rator marries and who dies; again we have a symbol of 
Mary's dead love. Morella leaves him a daughter also 
called Morella, and this may be a description of the pater- 
nal feeling Poe entertained at the time for Virginia, who 
was then 11 years old. In the tale the second Morella 
also dies. 

The sadistic story, Berenice, of the same period, also 
has memories of Mary. 

These stories with fanciful names like Ligeia, Eleonora, 
Morella, Berenice and the tale Assignation were given 
us by the poet from the depths of his unconscious; love 
repressions starting from the death of his own mother in 
infancy, the loss of his foster mother, Mr. Allan's first 
wife, the grief at the death of his friend's mother, the 
quarrel with Mr. Allan's second wife, the love affairs with 
Miss Royster, and Miss Herring, but especially the re- 
jection by Mary entered into the influences, which made 
up not only the poems and tales previously mentioned, 



228 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

but much of his later work. He was neurotic because 
he lost his mother in infancy and had many love disap- 
pointments. The only tale where he gives an account of 
the love emotions is in The Spectacles, written before 
or about 1844, and here he drew on his experiences, prob- 
ably chiefly from memories of Mary. 

Now comes a question that has always puzzled his 
critics: Why was the poet so occupied with the subject 
of death of fair ladies or of depicting a man bereaved by 
the death of his love. Many replies have been made, but 
not altogether satisfactorily. The most common answer 
is that he was so occupied with the subject because he 
lost his own wife, Virginia. Some uninformed critics are 
of the belief that poems like The Raven and The 
Sleeper, tales like Eleonora and Ligeia, were written 
after his wife died. As a matter of fact these, with the 
exception of The Raven and possibly Eleonora, were 
written even before Virginia burst a blood-vessel. There 
is evidence to make us believe that Ulaume, which is 
taken to refer to the death of his wife, was at least com- 
menced before Mrs. Poe's death, in January, 1847; Anna- 
bel Lee was, however, written after that date. Nearly all 
of Poe's short stories, too, had been published by that 
time. He was occupied with the subject of death long 
before he married; he mourns the death of women 
in Lenore, Tamerlane, and The Sleeper, all written 
before he was twenty- two years old. His first tales, 
Assignation, Ligeia, Morella, deal with the subject of 
women's deaths. So those who believe that he may have 
imagined Virginia dead after she burst a blood-vessel, and 
hence wrote as if she had died, are not right. For all 
the stories of this nature with the doubtful exception of 
Eleonora were written before she burst a blood-vessel. 
The Raven and The Conqueror Worm, two poems 



EDGAR ALLAN POE 229 

occupied with death, were written before her death but 
after her hemorrhage. 

Poe tells us in his Philosophy of Composition, — an un- 
convincing account of the origin of The Raven, — that 
he regards the death of a beautiful maiden the most poet- 
ical and melancholy topic. But there were factors that 
made him think so, and these were the deaths of women 
he loved and the rejections by girls with whom he was 
infatuated. He lost his mother when he was three years 
old. Mrs. Lannard, who is said to have inspired To 
Helen, and who was "the first pure ideal love of my 
soul" (Poe) died when he was fifteen. (She is also 
said to have inspired The Sleeper.) He lost Mrs. Allan, 
his foster mother, to whom he was greatly attached, when 
he was twenty. He had also lost three sweethearts by 
the time he was twenty-three. These he looked upon as 
departed or gone from him. In the Bridal Ballad, 
written probably on the occasion of the marriage of Miss 
Royster, he refers to himself as a dead lover. The poem 

To F , To One in Paradise, and To Zante, as I 

showed, were most likely written to Mary, though he 
may have had the others in mind, who either died or 
were gone from him. All this shows the strong infantile 
influences on Poe in damming up of his libido. He was, 
therefore, occupied with the subject of death not because 
of Virginia's illness or death, but because he lost, before 
he was twenty- three, six girls or women. His interest in 
the subject made him hope death could be conquered or 
stayed, and hence we have Ligeia and The Facts in the 
Case of Valdemar. There is a philosophic treatment of 
death in The Colloquy of Monos and Una. 



230 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 



n 



Tales of burial alive, such as The Casque of Amontilla- 
do, The Black Cat, etc., are also characteristic of Poe. 

What is the significance of Poe's interest in the sub- 
ject of burial alive and in people who are guilty of bury- 
ing others alive? Very few people would probably accept 
Freud's theory, but that master psychologist as a rule 
bases his theories on facts, and hence I will quote his 
views on the subject. In a footnote of his book on The 
Interpretation of Dreams, p. 244, he says: "It is only of 
late that I have learned to value the significance of 
fancies and unconscious thoughts about life in the womb. 
They contain the explanation of the curious fear felt by 
so many people of being buried alive, as well as the pro- 
foundest unconscious reason for the belief in a life after 
death, which represents nothing but a projection into the 
future of this mysterious life before birth. The act of 
birth, moreover, is the first experience with fear, and in 
this the source and model of the emotion of fear." 

Would Freud's theory not also account for Poe's great 
gift of the analysis and depiction of the emotion of fear? 

Morbid fear or anxiety is well depicted by Poe, 
especially in his Fall of the House of Usher. As we learn 
from psychoanalysis, morbid fear is inhibited sexual de- 
sire; it is a reaction against the libido. The individual's 
sexual impulses incapable of being repressed strive for 
forms of wish fulfilment, and these when repugnant are 
treated like something hostile, and provoke fear. Morbid 
fear differs from normal fear in being continuous and at- 
tributed to a source which is not the real one, the actual 
source being unconscious. If a woman, for example, is 
ver;jr much in love with a man who turns out to be a vile 



EDGAR ALLAN POE 231 

criminal, her love may become incapable of being ful- 
filled any longer because of the part played by her moral 
sense; shrinking from contemplating her love's fulfilment 
with the man she really still loves, she may develop an 
anxiety. This is only one of the innumerable cases of mis- 
directed desire that may cause anxiety. Then there are 
physiological factors responsible also. Dr. Brink has 
made a study of the subject. (ccclw^c (^ 

Poe had himself sufferetT from a damming of the 
libido. He is Rogef^ Usher, and is describing his own 
morbid fear. One feels that the narrator of the tale pre- 
sents a case of psychosis, for he sees impossible things 
happen. He imagines the house had a pestilent vapour 
about it. He tells us that Roger's condition infected him, 
and that the wild influences of Roger's fantastic and im- 
pressive superstition crept over him. He must have been 
deranged, for he imagines that he sees Roger's dead sister, 
whose coffin had been screwed down by them, come out 
of the vault and drag Roger to death. He also thinks he 
sees the house crumble into fragments and sink into the 
tarn. Either his whole narrative is a hallucination or 
only these few parts of it are. 

Roger himself, however, is the real type of sufferer 
from morbid fear. He has inherited a peculiar disposi- 
tion, and no doubt suffered from repressions, though noth- 
ing is said about this. He attributes his disease largely 
to anxiety about his sick sister, Lady Madeline. But 
the cause is in his unconscious. Those who are ac- 
quainted with the theories of psychoanalysis and the life 
of Poe will feel that Roger, like Poe, must have lost a 
mother early, then the mother of a friend, then his foster- 
mother. He also, like Poe, was no doubt thrice disap- 
pointed in love, and probably also drank. His symptoms 
were such as afflict neurotics. He was in constant terror 



232 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

and felt that he must die soon in some struggle with fear; 
he dreaded the future. He read strange books and im- 
agined queer things. His sister died, and, with the aid 
of the narrator of the story, was buried in a vault in the 
house. He soon entertained fancies that he had buried 
her alive, and he was in mortal fear that she would 
wreak vengeance on him. When the teller of the story 
read to Roger some pages of a romance, Roger inter- 
preted various unrelated actions described there as a rend- 
ing of her coffin and the grating of iron hinges on her 
prison. He imagined she stood outside, and then that 
he was being crushed to death by her. And he died in 
fear. The vision of his sister was imaginary with him 
and the narrator as well, for Lady Madeline could not 
have escaped from the screwed down coffin and the vault, 
and having lain many days without food, would not have 
had strength to crush her brother to death. Usher died 
because of morbid fear. 

Poe was a good delineator of the neuroses. Here we 
have a picture of his own life and know that he must 
have experienced some sort of anxiety, as the tale is so 
true to life. He was only thirty when the story was pub- 
lished, and the main character here, as in Berenice and 
the Assignation, is a neurotic. Behind it all one sees the 
mourner for the lost Lenore, the orphan, the victim of 
love through Stella Royster, Elizabeth Herring and Mary 
Devereaux. 

Poe had also another trait, and that was a sadistic one. 
This accounts for his tales of people torturing and being 
tortured, as The Pit, and the Pendtdum, and the Cask of 
Amontillado. He was sadistic as any one can see by his 
delight in writing critical articles calculated to cause 
writers intense pain. He punished his enemies by venting 
his hatred upon them in his essays. He had an unconsci- 



EDGAR ALLAN POE 233 

ous instinct to cause pain for the mere sake of pain. He 
hints at this in his Imp of the Perverse, where he lays 
down a theory which is undoubtedly true, but which 
moralists try to shun. "I am not more certain that I 
breathe than that the assurance of the wrong or error of 
an action is often the one unconquerable force which 
impels us and alone impels us to its prosecution." He 
was also masochistic, he unconsciously liked to cause pain 
to himself. In his The Black Cat he calls perverseness 
one of the primitive impulses of the human heart, and he 
speaks of it as "the unfathomable longing of the soul to 
vex itself — to offer violence to its own nature, to do 
wrong for the wrong's sake only." Poe, as a child, had 
the sadistic and masochistic instincts. He is fascinated 
by contemplation of suffering, and in his Premature Burial 
speaks of the pleasurable pain we get from reading of 
terrible catastrophes. 

His sadism and masochism figure considerably in his 
art. He could not carry out his desires to punish in life, 
and hence found a refuge in literature. We often carry 
out in imagination what we cannot actually do; and we 
wreak punishment and revenge that way; if we are au- 
thors we make books with such ideas. A very simple il- 
lustration will serve in Poe's case, yet it has never been 
noted. In Poe's tale The Cask of Amontillado the motive 
is revenge. The narrator vowed vengeance upon Fortunato, 
who had added insult to injury. He buries him in a vault. 
In his fancy Poe was punishing a real enemy, and though 
he had several, he hated none more than the author of 
Alice Ben Bolt, Dr. Thomas Dunn English. It is re- 
lated he once sought the doctor, saying he wanted to kill 
him. The tale was published in Godey's Lady's Book for 
November, 1846, and was written probably a few months 
before. In July of that year Poe published the savage 



234 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN 1.ITERATURE 

and violent letter to English in retaliation for English's 
reply to a very hostile article about him by Poe in the 
Literati. Poe's hatred for Dr. English is almost murder- 
ous. It is plausible to assume that a writer would un- 
consciously have his most bitter antagonist in mind while 
writing a bitter tale of revenge at the time of his most 
intense hatred for him. Poe was not satisfied with his 
own savage reply, and instituted a suit of damages for 
defamation of character, which was rewarded with a ver- 
dict several months after the publishing of his tale. In 
the story Poe wrote: "I must not only punish, but pun- 
ish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retri- 
bution overtakes its redresser." He calls Fortunato a 
quack in painting and gemmary, as he had called Dr. 
English a charlatan in literature, who did not know the 
rules of grammar. So this is an illustration of how 
sadism made him unconsciously write at least one tale of 
punishing an enemy by burying him alive. 

m 

After all, Poe is chiefly the dreamer and author of 
dream literature. The narrator of Berenice tells in detail 
how he was always dreaming. In Assignation the lover 
says, ''To dream has been the business of my Hfe. I 
have, therefore, framed for myself a bower of dreams." 
In Eleonora the narrator says those who dream by day 
obtain glimpses of eternity. Roger Usher was a dreamer. 
Poe's Eureka was dedicated to those who dream instead 
of those who thinli. He also wanted to transcend real- 
ity. He builded an ideal landscape in The Domain of 
Arnheim because he thinks art can surpass nature. He 
hated the ugliness of to-day and he tried in Some Words 
with a Mummy to revive a mummy to tell him of an- 



EDGAR ALLAN POE 235 

cient Egypt and to give him the secret that enables one 
to suspend life temporarily and to be revived again cen- 
turies hence. He says in an early poem that all his days 
have been a dream. (A Dream Within a Dream.) 

Poe was true to the psychology of the dreamer; he cre- 
ated things out of his fancies to be as he would like them 
to be because he did not have them in reality. He was 
poor and described mansions with wonderful furniture. 
He was sad because of deaths and lost loves and tried in 
some tales to conquer death. His The Raven is really 
an anxiety dream. Fear prompted it, the fear that he 
would never be with his lost Lenore, who probably was 
Mary. She then inspired this his most famous poem. 
His characters cannot help being dreamers, for their cre- 
ator was one. He was so absorbed in his dreams that he 
never tried to take an interest in reality. Hence we find 
no moral note in Poe's work; there is one exception, Wil- 
liam Wilson. He took no interest in philanthropy, re- 
forms, transcendentalism or other movements of the day, 
and he disliked Emerson. One would never know from 
his work whether he lived at the time he did or in the 
eighteenth or twentieth century. One does not know 
from his work that there was a Mexican war or a slavery 
problem in his day. 

The one moral tale Poe wrote, William Wilson, also 
has great value to the psychoanalyst. For it is a study 
of emotional conflicts and deals with the subject of dual 
personality and anticipates Stevenson's famous story, 
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Poe is William Wilson, and 
he even describes his school days in England in the tale. 
It is the history of Poe's own struggle with his uncon- 
scious, with evil. He too was a gambler and probably 
cheated at cards like William Wilson. There are two 
William Wilsons, one representative of the unprincipled, 



236 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

the criminal, the unconscious primitive instincts in our- 
selves, and the other William Wilson who is the voice of 
civilisation, the conscious moralist seeking to repress the 
other. Surely this great tale is symbolic of man's strug- 
gle with his own conscious which civilisation io trying to 
tame. 

So we leave Poe. Others may take up the question of 
his alleged drunkenness and its overestimated effect on 
his art. But I have merely wished to point a few things 
in his work made clear with the help of psychoanalysis. 
Psychoanalysis has given the answer to those who ob- 
ject to Poe because of his lack of moral tone. 

It should be added that Poe's great attachment to his 
mother-in-law, Mrs. Clemm, was due to the loss of his 
own mother in infancy. 

Poe's devotion and love for women of his later life, 
Mrs. Osgood, Mrs. Richmond, Mrs. Lewis, and especially 
Helen Whitman, did not influence his work considerably 
in spite of the sufferings they caused him, but produced 
a few good single poems to some of them, notably. To 
Annie, Mrs. Richmond, and To Helen, Mrs. Whitman, 
and the pathetic, masterly letters to these women. 



CHAPTER XVII 

THE IDEAS OF LAFCADIO HEARN 



Lafcadio Hearn anticipated many of Freud's con- 
clusions. He understood the unity of life, in the past 
with that in the present, and his most persistent thought 
is the power and influence of the emotional life of our 
very distant ancestors upon our own lives. 

A word should be said about Hearn's antecedents. He 
has himself left a tribute to his mother, who exerted a 
great influence upon him. She was a Greek, though one 
biographer, Nina Kennard, conjectures that she had ori- 
ental blood. Hearn was very much attached to her and 
lost her when he was only six years old by his father di- 
vorcing her. This event coloured his entire life. He 
tells us that there was a miniature painting in oil of the 
Virgin and the Child, on the wall of the room in which he 
slept as a child. "I fancied," he says, "that the brown 
Virgin represented my mother — ^whom I had almost com- 
pletely forgotten — and the large-eyed child myself." In 
this infantile phantasy we see how the repressed love 
for his mother revived in him and how he identified her 
with the Virgin. 

He wrote to his brother: "My love of right, my hate 
of wrong; — my admiration for what is beautiful or true; 
— my capacity for faith in man or woman; — my sensi- 

237 



238 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

tiveness to artistic things which gives me whatever lit- 
tle success I have; — even that language-power, whose 
physical sign is in the large eyes of both of us, — came 
from her. It is the mother who makes us, — makes 
at least all that makes the nobler man; not his strength 
or powers of calculation, but his heart and power to 
love. And I would rather have her portrait than a 
fortune." 

Hearn knew of the existence of the unconscious in 
the Freudian sense, and also of its influence on author- 
ship. When he was twenty-eight, in 1878, in a letter 
to Mr. Krehbiel he said: "Every one has an inner life 
of his own, — which no other eye can see, and the great 
secrets of which are never revealed, although occa- 
sionally when we create something beautiful, we betray 
a faint glimpse of it — sudden and brief, as of a door 
opening and shutting in the night." (Life and Letters, 
Volume I, p. 196.) ^'Unconscious brain-work is the best 
to develop . . . latent feeling or thought. By quietly 
writing the thing over and over again, I find that the 
emotion or idea often develops itself in the process, — 
unconsciously. When the best result comes, it ought 
to surprise you, for our best work is out of the Un- 
conscious." (Life and Letters, Volume i, p. 140-141.) 

Again Hearn realised that fairy tales had their origin 
in dreams, an idea that has been developed by Rank, 
Abraham and Ricklin, disciples of Freud. Hearn saw 
that there was an intimate connection between literature 
and dreams. He is one of the first men to have seen 
the relation between dreams and supernatural litera- 
ture. The following passages are from the lecture on 
"The Supernatural in Literature" in the second volume 
of Interpretation of Literature. "Whether you believe 
in ghosts or not, all the artistic elements of ghostly 



THE IDEAS OF LAFCADIO HEARN 239 

literature exist in your dreams, and form a veritable 
treasury of literary material for the man that knows how 
to use them." "Trust to your own dream life; study it 
carefully, and draw your inspiration from that. For 
dreams are the primary source of almost everything that 
is beautiful in the literature which treats of what lies 
beyond mere daily experience." 

Hearn, with Samuel Butler, is one of the great cham- 
pions for the theory about the power of unconscious 
memory over us. This idea is one of the axioms of 
psychoanalysis, or rather one of its pillars. In his essay, 
"About Ancestor Worship" in Kokoro, Hearn develops 
his theories of inherited memory at length, and one might 
say that there is scarcely an essay of his that does not 
touch on the subject. Here he states one of the leading 
lessons taught by psychoanalysis. Hearn realised that we 
should not starve all our primitive tendencies, as this 
would lead to the destruction of some of the highest emo- 
tional faculties with which they are blended. The animal 
tendencies must be partly extirpated and partly sub- 
limated. This is practically Freud's theory that neurosis 
is produced by trying to stamp out our sexual impulses 
(yet Freud does not mean that we should give these 
full play). The following passage from Hearn's essay 
is part of the prophylaxis of psychoanalysis. "Theo- 
logical legislation, irrationally directed against human 
weaknesses, has only aggravated social disorders; and 
laws against pleasure have only provoked debaucheries. 
The history of morals teaches very plainly indeed that 
our bad Kami require some propitiation. The passions 
still remain more powerful than the reason in man 
because they are incomparably older, because they were 
once all essential to self-preservation, — because they 
made that primal stratum, of consciousness out of which 



240 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

the nobler sentiments have slowly grown. Never can 
they be suffered to rule; but woe to whosoever would 
deny their immemorial rights." 

He has a similar idea in his essay on "Nirvana." "Men- 
tal and moral advance has thus far been effected only 
through constant struggles older than reason or moral 
feeling, — against the instincts and appetites of primi- 
tive brute life. . . . Only through millions of births have 
we been able to reach this our present imperfect state; 
and the dark bequests of our darkest past are still strong 
enough betimes to prevail over reason and ethical feel- 
ing." 

Hearn regarded man as an entity of millions of cells, a 
composite of multiples of lives carrying out uncon- 
sciously the behests of past ages. Man's instincts are 
but unconscious memories of the instincts of old. Whit- 
man has this idea in his Song of Myself, and Buddha 
taught this idea which Hearn calls "the highest truth 
ever taught to man," "the secret unity of life." Hearn 
states the view fully in his remarkable essay on Dust. 
"All our emotions and thoughts and wishes, however, 
changing and growing through the varying seasons of 
life, are only compositions and recompositions of the 
sensations and ideas and desires of other folk, mostly 
of dead people. — I an individual, — an individual soul! 
Nay, I am a population — a population unthinkable for 
multitude, even by groups of a thousand millions! Gen- 
erations of generations I am, aeons of aeons." Or as he 
states it in another essay, "Ideas of Pre-existence," in 
Kokoro: "It is incontrovertible that in every individual 
brain is locked up the inherited memory of the abso- 
lutely inconceivable multitude of experiences received 
by all the brains of which it is the descendant." There 
are similar ideas in Jack London's Star Rover. 



THE IDEAS OF LAFCADIO HEARN 241 

Hearn laid emphasis on the unity of the past and 
present, a fundamental principle of psychoanalysis. 
Hearn saw this idea in Buddhism and hence became at- 
tached to the philosophy of this creed, and his reconcilia- 
tion of it with the theory of evolution is no mere idle 
dream. Leading Buddhist scholars before Hearn saw 
the similarity between the theory of heredity as taught 
by evolution and the doctrine of Karma or transmigra- 
tion of character. This doctrine of Karma explains also 
that a man has pernicious unconquered evil instincts 
because he is allied to ancestors who possessed them 
strongly. Buddhism taught the theory found in evo- 
lution and psychoanalysis, that we contain in ourselves 
every moral tendency and psychic attribute of millions 
of people and animals from whom we have descended. 
We are full of shreds of our ancestors' emotions and 
characteristics which are buried in our unconscious. 

n 

Why does Hearn harp on this idea of unconscious 
memory throughout his work and in his correspond- 
ence? Why was he attracted to the question of the 
eternal persistence of life even before he accepted the 
philosophy of Buddhism. His pet theory was that noth- 
ing could be lost in the universe. In one of his finest 
essays, "Reverie," in Kotto, he gives us the secret of his 
life. He tells that the mother's smile will survive every- 
thing, for life can never disappear finally from the uni- 
verse. He first states the materialistic position which as- 
sumes that eventually all life will die and naught will be 
left of our labours and struggles, and then he gives the 
Buddhistic idea, which holds that nothing is lost in the 
universe. I think in this essay we have the keynote 



242 THE EROTIC MOTIVE i:^^' LITERATURE 

to Heam's philosophy. He lost fSth in Christianity- 
early and with it a belief in the immortality of the in- 
dividual soul. At the age of six, he lost his mother, 
whom he loved, and his scepticism on the subject of 
immortality made him feel that his mother was gone 
from him eternally. This was painful to him and He 
accepted the philosophy of Buddhism as a solace, for 
it taught something that was not repugnant to his 
scientific sense; that life can never die out entirely, for 
the universe always would exist and even if life died 
out on our planet, those conditions that made it pre- 
vail here would reign either in some other part of the 
universe or at a later time. Hence we all would con- 
tribute to that life as our ancestors contribute to our 
lives. In fact, Hearn once wrote he would not object 
to being transformed into an insect. So if life went on 
forever he would still know that mother's smile he had 
lost in infancy. The Reverie essay is the result of his 
(Edipus Complex. 

In fact, Hearn formulated the idea of the Eternal 
Recurrence in 1880 before Nietzsche did, who wept when 
he discovered this by no means new theory in August, 
1 88 1, at Silas Maria, 6,500 feet above sea. Hearn's essay 
on Metempsychosis appeared in the New Orleans Item 
and was included in a collection published called Fan- 
tastics and Other Fantasies. But Nietzsche became in- 
tensely pessimistic as the result of his discovery, since it 
meant all life's tragedies would also recur. Hearn, no 
doubt, abandoned the theory as a literal possibility after 
he read Spencer, but he retained his belief in some of the 
main features of it. 

When we recall that Buckle, who was a free thinker 
in religious matters, still clung to the idea of immortality 
of the soul because he could not tolerate the thought 



THE IDE^ OF LAFGADIO HEARN 243 

of never meetingTiis dead mother; when we remember 
that scientists like Wallace and Fiske, who were among 
the pioneers of the theory of evolution, finally embraced 
spiritualism as a compensation for their lost faith in 
religion, it should not appear fantastic to trace Heam's 
views on unconscious inherited memory and on the Bud- 
dhistic conception of Metempsychosis, to his loss of both 
his mother and his religion; for in his new belief he 
could meet his mother and still not sacrifice his intel- 
lect to his belief. 

Psychoanalysis might be applied to other phases of 
Heam's writings, — ^his interest in the gruesome and exotic. 
It can explain his interest in other races like the coloured 
people and the Japanese; his passion for physical beauty 
and his sh)mess. One thing that impresses the lover of 
Hearn is the seeming impersonality of his work. Yet 
though he says little of himself directly, you can see the 
sensitive, half-blind sufferer throughout the work. For 
his ideas studied and traced to their source reveal of 
themselves the reasons why he embraced them. 

He has described ideal love, such no doubt as he must 
have felt, in Karma in Lippincotfs Magazine, May, 1890. 
This story has been only recently published in book form. 

His affinity for Poe and his adoption of the name 
The Raven in his letters to Mr. Watkins is seen in 
the projecting of himself upon that unhappy genius 
with whom he had so much in common. He, like Poe, 
suffered from poverty, from following aristocratic tradi- 
tions in intellectual pursuit, in a devotion to physical 
beauty, in a love for French literature, in an interest in 
extreme suffering, in the divesting of art from morals 
and in wandering about from city to city. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

CONCLUSION 



The question now arises, What effect will a knowledge 
of the author's unconscious have in making us appreci- 
ate his work as literature? Does it matter at all if 
we know whether a particular affair or a certain woman 
inspired a poem or not? Many critics protest against 
the kind of literary criticism that speculates as to 
whether the heroines celebrated in the sonnets of Shake- 
speare or Sidney were real or imaginary, whether the 
emotions felt by the poets were affected or genuine. 
These critics are not usually inclined to admit any con- 
nection between an author's life and his work. 

One of the great factors in helping us understand liter- 
ary works is an acquaintance with some of the episodes 
of the author's life. Sainte-Beuve revolutionised literary 
criticism by his dictum that the knowledge of an author's 
life helps us to follow his work the better. Dr. Johnson 
once said that he liked the biographical side of literature. 
Isaac D 'Israeli, before Sainte-Beuve, showed in his Ut- 
erary Character that he grasped the nature of the inti- 
mate relationship between an author and his work. 

It is our contention that a literary work is better appre- 
ciated after the facts about an author's life are revealed 
to us, and this does not usually happen for years after his 

244 



CONCLUSION 245 

death. One of the reasons why masterpieces cannot be 
fully comprehended in an author's lifetime is because we 
do not know altogether how he came to write the works 
in question. Shelley and Keats were not fully under- 
stood by the critics of their times not only because 
of their radical views, but because the public did not 
know the details of the poets' relations with their parents, 
and the women they loved. How could a cold, stern re- 
viewer find anything in Epipsychidion or Lamia 
unless he was aware of some facts about Emilia Viviani 
or Fanny Brawne? How was any fair estimate of either 
of these poets possible while the information that later 
times have furnished was not at hand? Many people 
objected when the letters of Keats to Fanny Brawne 
were published forty years ago, but these have helped 
us to understand that the cry that pervades them is 
the same embodied in music in the Ode to Fanny, the 
Ode to the Nightingale and in Lamia. 

No true estimate of a man is possible till one reads 
the plaints of his that were not meant for the public. 
We should not regret the publication of the love let- 
ters of the Brownings and Carlyles. Those wonderful 
letters are almost as good literature as anything the 
authors wrote for the public. We are enabled to see 
the writers in an entirely different light from that in 
which their own works put them, and to understand 
these better. 

It was not possible for the age in which Balzac and 
Goethe lived, fully to appreciate them, for it did not 
have their published correspondence, and could not es- 
timate the close connection between unknown episodes 
in their lives and their works. I do not mean that the 
contemporaries of these poets could not recognise the 



246 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

fact that these men were genuises, but they could not 
get a proper understanding of them. 

In former times criticism was busy with the questions 
of technique, with matters of rhetoric and grammar; a 
writer's work furnished opportunities for discussing how 
near to old ideas of authorship the author approached. 
To-day we study an author in connection with his own 
life and with ours. The Shakespearean criticism of the 
last century is worth more than that of the two cen- 
turies following his death. Coleridge and Hazlitt de- 
voted their discussions to showing how the great poet 
discussed problems that touched all of us. A number of 
studies and books have been published which seek to 
educe his personality from his work. I believe Walter 
Bagehot was a pioneer in this kind of work. His es- 
say on Shakespeare — The Man appeared as early as 
1853. The most successful venture of this kind has 
been George Brandes's great study. Other works of 
this nature are Frank Harris's The Man Shakespeare, 
and The Women of Shakespeare, both usually re- 
garded as fantastic, but nevertheless deserving credit for 
their daring, mistaken as they often are. Leslie Stephen's 
and A. C. Bradley's essays in the Studies of a Biographer 
and Oxford Lectures on Poetry, respectively deserve spe- 
cial mention. Then there are books like David Masson's 
Shakespeare Personally, Robert Waters 's William 
Shakespeare, Portrayed by Himself, and Goldwin 
Smith's Shakespeare: The Man. Shakespeare's great- 
ness can be recognised though we knew little about him, 
yet the keynote of modern Shakespearean criticism is to 
endeavour to see the connection between the plays and 
the man. 

Comes the question of the effect of psychoanalytic 
criticism upon our judgment of living authors. Writers 



CONCLUSION 247 

like George Moore, of the living, and Strindberg, of the 
recently dead, have not waited for posterity to make 
discoveries about their love affairs. They told us about 
them frankly in their autobiographical works. Other 
writers, great poets like Yeats and Symons, have sung 
of their loves more or less openly in their lyrics. When 
posterity reads the biographies of these last two poets, 
that will no doubt some day be written, it will, I believe, 
learn that the emotions these poets expressed in their 
work had a real basis. But we have no right to probe into 
an author's private life while he is alive; we may make 
detailed deductions from his work, but we should not 
give them publicity. The reader who finds the early 
Kipling cynical about women, who notes Hardy con- 
stantly reiterating the tragedies caused by love, may 
venture to guess there must be some reason for this, but 
it would be a vicious criticism that made this topic the 
subject of an article while these men are aHve. One 
who reads Wells' New Machiavelli or Dreiser's The 
X^enius and observes the author's preoccupation with 
the marriage problem, may also draw his own conclusions 
about how much the fiction is inspired by reality, but it 
is a fitter subject for posterity to take up. Occasion- 
ally an author like Robert Herrick or Upton Sinclair 
has his domestic affairs dragged into the limelight, on 
account of the sensational interest of our newspapers, 
and the reader learns that novels like One Woman's 
Life and Love's Pilgrimage were somewhat autobiograph- 
ical. 

There has been a great tendency in our day on the 
part of authors to write autobiographical novels. We 
should not deprecate this tendency. When I think 
that Balzac, Stendhal, Flaubert and Zola, Tolstoi, 
Dostoievsky and Turgenev, Scott, Dickens, Thackeray, 



248 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

George Eliot, George Meredith and Henry James were 
often autobiographical, I realise that all literary men, 
novelists as well as poets, are compelled to wear their 
hearts on their sleeves by virtue of their art. That criti- 
cism which reproached Rousseau, Chateaubriand, Senan- 
cour and De Musset for having been occupied too much 
with themselves is unfair. With whom else would the 
critics have the authors occupied? A man cannot get 
out of himself. When he undertakes to write a book, 
he tells us practically beforehand that he is going to 
talk about himself. 

Therefore, such excellent novels of our time as Jack 
London's Martin Eden, Stephen French Whitman's Pre- 
destined, Maugham's Oj Human Bondage and Beres-, 
ford's Invisible Event are to be commended. Should 
these authors' renown live, posterity will learn tha£ some 
of the emotional life lived by the characters had been 
experienced by the authors themselves. It is, how- 
ever, not a matter of importance whether the mere in- 
cidents recorded in these novels actually transpired in 
the authors' lives. 

Many of us are so constituted that we like to sit 
down with an author like Montaigne or Hazlitt, who 
takes us into his confidence. We dislike reticent and 
cold people in literature as much as in life. We do not 
ask writers to tell us about their private affairs, but 
we want them to talk at least indirectly about things 
that are close to their heart. And one may be sure 
they will interest us. Shakespeare unlocked his heart 
to us in his sonnets and in his plays as well. 

It is of the world's great books that it can always be 
said as Whitman did of his own, "Whoso touches this 
book touches a man.'' 



CONCLUSION 249 



Art and literature are realities in themselves. The 
depicting of an event enshrines it as a thing of beauty ; 
the event itself may be dull. We meet Falstaffs in real 
life and waste no time on them ; put into a play by a mas- 
ter, Falstaff gives us an artistic thrill. How many of the 
people who enjoy Dickens' novels about humble people 
would be interested in them in real life? Dickens's magic 
pen makes us receive a sensation reading about them that 
they cannot give us themselves. It is the artist's per- 
sonality and art that count. 

Gissing and Flaubert wrote about ordinary people but 
they themselves were intellectual aristocrats; they had 
nothing in common with the people they wrote about (ex- 
cept with those who were disguised portraits of them- 
selves). In fact, they despised them; they personally 
were recluses and merely sympathised with and were 
interested in the people they wrote about as subjects for 
art. If we had met Madame Bovary personally and 
heard her tale from her own mouth, the effect upon us 
would be small compared to that of the novel. 

The domestic troubles of our next door neighbours 
may be a bore to us. We may not care to meet the 
people personally, but a great novel or play describing 
the matrimonial difficulties of fictitious characters gives 
us a distinct artistic thrill. The sorrows of people who 
lived centuries ago move us more than those of people 
we know, because of the magic power of art. 

Those who from time immemorial called art magical 
were right. Many people who disparage art and litera- 
ture say to the writer and the reader that they should 
enter the whirlpool of life, and live themselves. No ad- 



2 50 THE EROTIC MOTIVE IN LITERATURE 

vice could be more foolhardy. To read beautiful books 
about other people's lives is itself a high form of life, 
a life that only art can furnish. It also has its advan- 
tages, when we think of the characters in literature whom 
we enjoy reading about and yet would never care to meet. 
Who would really want to meet Becky Sharp or Peck- 
sniff? 

That artistic pleasure we get, mingled with actual 
pain on account of the sorrows of poets, is to us a decided 
part of our lives. The fact that we are brought into con- 
tact with a beautiful series of lines voicing human grief 
in such a manner that both our human and aesthetic emo- 
tions are aroused, is a privileged pleasure that only those 
who can enjoy poetry may derive. 

It does not follow, however, that a man must confine 
himself solely to the artistic or intellectual life. To 
know of love only through books and not through ex- 
perience is not to have lived a full life. To read the views 
of Aristotle on friendship and never to have had any 
real friendships is also but leading an incomplete life. 

Literature is real and to read and write it is to live. 



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